Tuesday Reads: Occupy Boston, Occupy Wall Street, and a Modern Day Whisky Rebellion

Good Morning!! Today I want to focus on articles about Occupy Wall Street protests, which despite the critiques of those on both the right and left, are still going on in NYC and many other U.S. cities, including Boston, I’m happy to say. The Boston Phoenix has a blog to document the protests. On September 28, Chris Faraone wrote:

At this early juncture it’s already safe to say that Occupy Wall Street has succeeded. I’m not being sarcastic. Yesterday I wrote about the media storm that’s showered their protests from early on, and that’s rained down even harder since the New York Police Department began brutalizing demonstrators. And after last night’s Occupy Boston meeting on the Common, I’m convinced that the hordes have achieved something even greater than attracting press: regardless of what they actually accomplish in the end, Occupy has already become the hottest protest franchise since the Tea Party. Which is why it makes sense that contrarian Boston is emerging as the first city to strike while the brand is hot.

Last night’s kickoff meeting was at least a testament to the popularity of this movement. People have been angry for some time, but for many it was Occupy that motivated them – not the countless other protests that take place every week around here. Roughly 300 showed –with a significant number of reporters on the scene documenting –despite the event having been announced less than a day ahead of time, and almost exclusively through social media (Steve Annear, who you should follow on Twitter if you’re keeping tabs on the actions, also broke the story in the Metro). By a show of hands, a few dozen folks on the Common got their feet wet in Liberty Square during the first stretch of Occupy Wall Street. But for the most part, these were people – mostly young, but overall from a mix of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities – who’d become interested by what they’d seen online and in the news.

Occupy Boston meeting on Boston Common

The Guardian even published an article about the Boston organization:

There were socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, students, anarchists, computer hackers, the unemployed, and workers ranging from a vet to an accountant.

And, numbering around 200 and meeting to plot until late in the night, a group of Bostonians have decided to recreate the anti-Wall Street protests that are gripping New York.

Unlike previous attempts, such as a march that fizzled out in Chicago with just 20 people, the people behind Occupy Boston showed a strong dose of media savvy and organisational skill on Monday night, as they drew a committed crowd of volunteers to their cause: to occupy a slice of the city. Local TV crews were in attendance at the evening mass planning meeting, and it had been flagged on the front pages of Boston’s newspapers.

The move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York and comes as other events are also being planned in Los Angeles and Washington.

Noam Chomsky even made a youtube video of support.

This thing is really growing. Could it be that the young people of this country are really going to stand up and fight? I sure hope so. Is this happening where you live? If so, please share what you know. I’m starting to get excited about this!

Getting back to the New York protests, Emptywheel had a post today on the NYPD and their history of violations of civil liberties. I’m not going to excerpt from it, because you really need to read the whole thing–it’s not very long.

At FDL, David Dayen has a post about Van Jones’s Take Back the American Dream organization and how it is “building off #Occupy Wall Street.”

The Campaign for America’s Future expected their conference to be a launching pad for an American Dream Movement that would be a counterpart to the Tea Party, a left populist movement that would branch out across the country. And that movement has built itself up over the past couple months, and was in part responsible for the invisible town hall revolution over August.

But CAF found itself caught by an organic protest movement, a disparate movement organized by a simple theme, an expression of the feeling of mass injustice. Nobody on the left was totally prepared for #OccupyWallStreet, which sprung up on its own. But the groups that have been organizing in similar ways and with a similar theme were more than prepared to support it.

The spirit of #OccupyWallStreet has given a booster shot to this Take Back the American Dream Conference, which last year was completely moribund. The first session at the conference was a paean to #OccupyWallStreet, with video from New York City (the live feed crashed, unfortunately) and even one organizer who camped out in Zuccotti Park speaking. “If we demand something from Wall Street, we’re telling them that they have the power, but we do,” said the organizer from the Working Families Party in New York.

“They went down there to the scene of the crime against our future,” said Van Jones at his keynote address, in admiration of the #OccupyWallStreet protesters. “They’ve been beaten, they’ve been pepper sprayed, they’ve been falsely arrested, but they never broke their discipline. They told the police officers who were arresting them, we are the 99%, we’re fighting for you, we’re fighting for your pensions too.”

“Something’s happening in America. Don’t you give up on this movement!” Jones concluded.

Yes, something is finally happening. Will it continue to grow? I sure hope so!

I also want to call your attention to an interesting piece at Salon by William Hogeland, author of three books on the revolutionary period in American history. Hogeland compares the Occupy Wall Street movement to the so-called Whisky Rebellion. Hogeland writes about radical protests movements against our founding fathers, who were, after all, the elites of their day. Here’s just a sample:

The difficulty in dealing with our founding battle for democratic economics arises in part because the movement was not against England but against the very American banking and trading elites who dominated the resistance to England. That complicates our founding myth, possibly unpleasantly. Also, it was a generally losing battle. With ratification of the Constitution, Hamiltonian finance triumphed, and people looking to Jefferson and Madison for finance and economic alternatives to Hamilton are barking up the wrong tree, since what those men knew, or even really cared, about finance could be written on a dime. (Anyway, in pushing for creating a nation, Madison supported Hamiltonian finance down the line. Their differences came later.) When Occupy Wall Street protesters say “It’s We the People!” they’re actually referring to a preamble, intending no hint of economic democracy, to a document that was framed specifically to push down democratic finance and concentrate American wealth for national purposes. Not very edifying, but there it is.

The Tea Party, meanwhile, has taken up founding economic issues from a right-wing point of view, associating itself with the upper-middle-class Boston patriots (often mistaken for populist democrats) who led a movement against overrreaching British trade acts in the 1760′s and were important to the impulse toward American independence. I’ve written fairly extensively about where and how I think the Tea Party goes wrong on the history of the founding period. But at least they’re framing their objections to current policy, and framing the historical roots of their ideas, not mainly in cultural but in economic terms.

Like it or not, though, it is Occupy Wall Street that has the most in common, ideologically, not with those Boston merchants and their supporters but with the less well-known, less comfortably acknowledged people who, throughout the founding period, cogently proposed and vigorously agitated for an entirely different approach to finance and monetary policy than that carried forward by the famous founders. Amid horrible depressions and foreclosure crises, from the 1750′s through the 1790′s, ordinary people closed debt courts, rescued debt prisoners, waylaid process servers, boycotted foreclosure actions, etc. (More on that here and here.) They were legally barred from voting and holding office, since they didn’t have enough property, so they used their power of intimidation to pressure their legislatures for debt relief and popular monetary policies. Their few leaders in legit politics included the visionary preacher Herman Husband, the weaver William Findley, and the farmer Robert Whitehill.

I found this article absolutely fascinating!

At the LA Times, there’s an editorial about the “message” of the “Occupy” protests along with a photo of protesters at LA City Hall.

The political left has been searching for the last couple of years to find an answer to the tea party. Some hoped last year’s rally in Washington led by TV comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a response to right-wing rallies attended by such conservative media celebrities as Glenn Beck, would spark a national movement. That didn’t happen. Now they’re pinning their hopes on Occupy Wall Street, which in many ways is a mirror image of the tea party. Both groups are motivated by frustration over the rotten economy and are vague about causes and solutions, though if their positions could be summed up in a one-line manifesto, it might be: The tea party, dominated by elderly conservatives, blames government overspending and overreach for our economic problems and would therefore like to cut federal spending, while Occupy Wall Street, dominated by young liberals, blames corporate greed and would therefore like to tax the rich and decrease corporate political power.

It is, of course, far too early to suggest that Occupy Wall Street represents a resurgence of the left. But we do seem to recall that in its initial days the tea party was similarly dismissed by pundits, especially those on the left who preferred to see the protesters as kooks rather than the vanguard of a political shift. What matters isn’t the size of the protest, the attire of the demonstrators or the misspellings on their signs; it’s whether the relatively tiny number of people who can be bothered to show up and march can inspire and energize other like-minded people enough to get them to the polls.

Finally, at Huffpo, there’s a piece by Judith Samuelson: A Baby Boomer’s Advice to the Millennials Occupying Wall Street

Whether their disgust with Wall Street is fueled by a lack of jobs or a more complex analysis was not apparent to me, but I trust we will be hearing more from the Millennials. Scholars are suggesting they will be a force to be reckoned with. In fact, you might already be experiencing their tendency to want to be heard in the workplace, in the classroom or at the dinner table, for example.

There are a lot of them; 90 million by some count, comprising the largest generation in our history. They are the most racially diverse generation ever, and they have been, and are being, shaped by remarkable events such as 9/11 and the ongoing global recession; by their parents — the boomers of yore; and, of course by technology — the first generation to take instant communications for granted. I believe that Millennials will shape our response to issues that bedevil us — through their passion about social issues, their facility with technology and social networking, and through their continued willingness to vote — as they did in big numbers in the last Presidential election.

Many of them will go to business school — or are already there. A quarter of post-graduate degrees are in business, and 20 percent of undergraduates are pursuing business degrees. Even at liberal arts colleges that may not offer “business” as a major, students flock to economics instead, or as close as they can get to the subject. This may be the result of parental pressure to exit school with some hope of finding a job (unlike baby boomers, Millennials are close to their parents and apparently even listen to them) but it is also in pursuit of the skills, language and heroes they have grown up with — more Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg than Bob Dylan and Robert Redford.

The question I have been thinking about is how they will bridge these two worlds — passion for social issues, and comfort with technology and business. I know from experience that real change is hard; that to influence business, and Wall Street, requires people skills as well as analytics, patience, and multiple approaches to gain the attention and commitment of the power brokers who set the rules and design the reward systems. Protest is a not an insignificant part of the puzzle, however, and always has been; just ask Walmart, Nike or Nestle.

In the spirit of Baby Boomers’ sharing their experience, strength, and hope with the Millennials, here’s a boomer anthem that might be appropriate:

What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share!

35 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Occupy Boston, Occupy Wall Street, and a Modern Day Whisky Rebellion”

  1. paper doll says:

    Great post! It will be interesting to see what emerges. I hope it’s for real and it keeps going!
    Something is better than nothing! rock on!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Good morning, paper doll!!

      Andrew Ross Sorkin of the NYT went to Zuccotti Park to check out the protest after he talked to a worried CEO:

      “Is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal?” the C.E.O. asked me. I didn’t have an answer. “We’re trying to figure out how much we should be worried about all of this,” he continued, clearly concerned. “Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?”

      As I wandered around the park, it was clear to me that most bankers probably don’t have to worry about being in imminent personal danger. This didn’t seem like a brutal group — at least not yet.

      But the underlying message of Occupy Wall Street — which spread to Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles on Monday — is something the big banks and corporate America may finally have to grapple with before it actually does become dangerous.

      What’s the message?

      At times it can be hard to discern, but, at least to me, the message was clear: the demonstrators are seeking accountability for Wall Street and corporate America for the financial crisis and the growing economic inequality gap.

      And that message is a warning shot about the kind of civil unrest that may emerge — as we’ve seen in some European countries — if our economy continues to struggle.

      The elites are getting nervous.

      • dakinikat says:

        These protesters aren’t showing up with guns holstered like the tea partiers did …

      • Peggy Sue says:

        “The elites are getting nervous.”

        Good. The politicians should be nervous, too, because the greed and looting from the corporate sector has been finessed by DC pols.

        Btw, BB, I found that Hoagland article really interesting. I would say that the worst thing that could happen to this nascent movement is having it swallowed up by Obama-friendly organizations–like the Van Jones Restore the Dream. We saw what happened when the Tea Party was co-opted, whether you agreed with them at the beginning or not. Now, they’re just a bunch of right-wing zealots, crying for the golden year of 1900.

        To me, it makes perfect sense that Occupy is being led by the young. It’s their long-term future on the line, being systematically pissed away by the banks and corporate sector, whether it be jobs, housing, endless war or the environment. And the Rule of Law has to be reestablished if there’s to be any confidence by the population in the Government, Democrats and Republican alike.

        If the wrongs are not righted, if the 99% isn’t given a sense that they too have a stake in the country’s future then we’ll have total chaos.

        I hope the elites are nervous. They have reason to be.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I would say that the worst thing that could happen to this nascent movement is having it swallowed up by Obama-friendly organizations–like the Van Jones Restore the Dream. We saw what happened when the Tea Party was co-opted, whether you agreed with them at the beginning or not. Now, they’re just a bunch of right-wing zealots, crying for the golden year of 1900.

        Peggy, I got the same feeling about Van Jones and the Obama “obot” supporters.

    • “Something is better than nothing! rock on!” –paperdoll

      Ayup, rock on!

    • Woman Voter says:

      Yes, it is a great post! Tweeted it again!

  2. Edward Shaw says:

    It sort of disturbs me that someone would refer to a movement as a franchise unless that is in fact what it really is.

  3. Branjor says:

    This is the first protest which has made me feel a glimmer of hope in a long long time.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Me too. I’ve always believed that young people would have to lead the rebellion.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    An interview that Fox News chose not to put on the air:

    • bostonboomer says:

      The New York Observer:

      Well, here is an interview that Fox News filmed, but doesn’t want you to see. The segment was shot on Wednesday for Greta van Susteren‘s show, (though it looks like the same producer from this O’Reilly segment questioning Michael Moore‘s anti-capitalist agenda) though the decision was made to leave it on the cutting room floor. The reason should be obvious pretty quickly.

      The speaker giving Fox News the buisness is Jesse LaGreca, a vocal member of the Occupy Wall Street protests. This video comes courtesy of Kyle Christopher from OccupyWallSt.org‘s media team.

      Now, no news organization is under obligation to air every interview they’ve filmed, especially when it makes them look bad. But you’d think that a “Fair and Balanced” network (that tells an interviewee that they are here to give them fair coverage to get any message they’d like to get out) would try to include at least a couple of opposing viewpoints to Mr. Shulz’s smarmy jokes or O’Reilly’s “infiltration” of the camp.

      The ball is in your court, Fox.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      Gee, I wonder why they wouldn’t air it. :0)

    • Woman Voter says:

      Yea, they went down to interview people then CHOPPED the interview out.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    It might be a “win” for those gathering to protest if the Justice Dept acted and began to file charges against those Wall Street thieves.

    You can’t keep “turning the page” and looking the other way as these people continue to thrive at the expense of us 99ers who have to live with these decisions.

    But it won’t happen as so many “advisers” to the WH are firmly attached to their old roots.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      Yeah, they’re attached to their old Chicago roots and frankly the Dems are being led by Third Way neoliberals, which is only a stone toss from the Republican libertarian mindset. Either way is poison for the majority of Americans and would firmly set in place a 2-tier class system: the high and mighty, and then . . . everyone else [the 99ers].

      I’ll be watching what happens as the DC arm of this movement gears up on Thursday. I suspect there will be specific demands coming at some point. People have had it with the status quo, which is what this Administration is defending, while giving lip service to a populist agenda. We know where the Republicans stand–corporate love all day, all night.

      I stand with Bernie Sanders. If he’s a socialist then so am I.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Yes Pat, the WH isn’t going to do anything for these people. And the people like Van Jones are just latching on to the movement so that they can shell Obama and get the “youth vote” again. What a hypocrisy when Obama is in the back pockets of all the companies and executives the Occupy movement is protesting.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        Case in point: News from The Associated Press

        To the dismay of consumer groups and the discomfort of Democrats, President Barack Obama wants Congress to make it easier for private debt collectors to call the cellphones of consumers delinquent on student loans and other billions owed the federal government.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    After ruling, frightened Hispanics flee Alabama town:

    ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — The vanishing began Wednesday night, the most frightened families packing up their cars as soon as they heard the news.

    They left behind mobile homes, sold fully furnished for a thousand dollars or even less. Or they just closed up and, in a gesture of optimism, left the keys with a neighbor. Dogs were fed one last time; if no home could be found, they were simply unleashed.

    Two, 5, 10 years of living here, and then gone in a matter of days, to Tennessee, Illinois, Oregon, Florida, Arkansas, Mexico — who knows? Anywhere but Alabama.

    The exodus of Hispanic immigrants began just hours after a federal judge in Birmingham upheld most provisions of the state’s far-reaching immigration enforcement law.

    The judge, Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, upheld the parts of the law allowing state and local police to ask for immigration papers during routine traffic stops, rendering most contracts with illegal immigrants unenforceable and requiring schools to ascertain the immigration status of children at registration time.

    • bostonboomer says:

      NYT editorial: Alabama’s Shame

      School superintendents and principals across the state confirm that attendance of Hispanic children has dropped noticeably since the word went out that school officials are now required to check the immigration status of newly enrolled students and their parents.

      That rule is part of the law’s sweeping attempt to curtail the rights and complicate the lives of people without papers, making them unable to enter contracts, find jobs, rent homes or access government services. In other words, to be isolated, unemployable, poor, defenseless and uneducated.

      The education crackdown is particularly senseless and unconstitutional. In 1982, the Supreme Court found that all children living in the United States have the right to a public education, whatever their immigration status. The justices’ reasoning was shaped not by compassion but practicality: it does the country no good to perpetuate an uneducated underclass.

  7. northwestrain says:

    Van Jones: Marines to Stand with Wall Street Protesters


    Very interesting. Most from New York know all about the corruption of the NYC police force. Certainly not all are rotten — but it only takes a few and these few seem to work their way up.

    So now the marines are coming.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      I’d read a rumor being passed on the twitter feed that the National Guard was coming–same thing to protect the protesters. The vets coming in dress uniform makes more sense. There have been veterans marching in these protests already. As for the cops? There have been several reports that a number of the police were sympathetic to the movement, about 100 refusing to show for work. Makes sense, particularly from the lower ranks. Their pensions and livlihoods are on the line, too.

      Should get interesting!

  8. BB, I *loved* the title of this post even before I read the contents. Great work compiling these articles in one place. I can’t wait to read the Salon piece by Hogeland…

  9. dakinikat says:

    You know what really drives me nuts is that the tea party rallies were full of gun toters … here’s an example.

    Nevertheless, as with the Tea Party supporters, those who were present generally agreed that the government had unconstitutionally overstepped what should be the limits of its power; health care reform and the bank bailouts took the worst oratorical beating. But other grievances varied from speaker to speaker. Eric Stinnett, an engineer from Alabama, lambasted everything from school lunches to PBS. Others called for a complete congressional revamping. “We’re here to tell you something, guys: You’re fired!” said Larry Pratt, executive director for Gun Owners of America, pointing across the river. (See pictures of the AK-47.)

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1983214,00.html#ixzz1ZqC5Gk8E

    So every one’s tightie whities are in a knot over the Occupy folks? Did the police turn on these guys with the guns?

  10. erin says:

    I am at the occupy philly meeting right now. It is awful. We’ve been going 2.5 hrs and not even broached our goal in occupation. I am…extremely frustrated. I took off thursday & friday to occupy 4 days, because i have a job so i only have so much time, and i’d actually like to be part of something that works.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      That is a shame erin, I hope that it gets more attention and more people show up. Let us know how it goes and thanks for commenting.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hi Erin,

      That sounds pretty typical for beginning an organization like that. People disagree and argue about picky stuff. I hope they get something going. Good for you for joining in. Hang in there!