The problem with peaceful protests of the “sit-in” variety is they are easy to ignore. It doesn’t take long for the news media to lose interest in them. Without press coverage support for the cause begins to wane, and— too often— the leadership of peaceful protest movements feel compelled to spur their followers to further, more provocative action— mostly for the benefit of TV cameras, to signify that their movement is making some progress.
But when surly protesters flout local laws, they risk alienating more moderate supporters in favor of angrier, more aggressive ones. Then the tide of chaos rises as “peaceful” protesters strategically place themselves “peacefully” in harm’s way, by dangerously blocking public thoroughfares or loitering in areas previously proclaimed off-limits by the local authorities. The Law of Diminishing Returns urges them to take ever more drastic action— the goal of which (though few would admit it) is to generate MORE sensational footage of protesters getting a snoot-full of pepper spray, or bleeding from being manhandled by police, or whatever serves the cause.
When peaceful protesters openly and aggressively defy police instructions, the police (at least in many cases) have no choice in how to react… it is their job to maintain order and prevent a riot. They must therefore follow a strict and usually VERY specific playbook that details what they must do, and in what order. If pushed beyond a certain point, they will take action. First with non-lethal methods (pepper spray, etc.) and ultimately with real force. That is a no-brainer.
There have recently been examples of misbehavior on both sides— jerks abound, and there are violent sociopaths lining up on BOTH sides of that line, believe you me. The nut-cases, in both camps, are getting ready to rumble.
I truly appreciate and support what the Occupy movement is trying to do. I simply note that— if the ultimate goal of OWS is to achieve something— some form of meaningful change— they don’t seem to have come up with a way to do it. The ruling establishment seems intent on waiting them out in the hope that eventually they will all go home; or at least are waiting until the TV cameras are all pointed elsewhere and the REAL clean-up can begin, off camera and away from the prying eye of the news media. That is where political and corporate bosses and their lackeys ALWAYS prefer to do their dirtiest business.
That being the case, I fear the OWS movement must eventually turn violent in an attempt to cash in on the communal guilt of a horrified nation and get some legislation passed. Or whatever it is they are trying to do. I’m still a bit fuzzy on their agenda. At present the main message of the OWS movement seems to be “Rich people, share your wealth!”
Believe me, they are NEVER going to do that without a fight. And I don’t think the majority of the Occupy protesters want that sort of fight, or are capable of winning it. Despite what Hollywood screenwriters and dimestore novelists would have you believe, non-violent protest, alone, rarely works. It took Ghandi and his non-violent Quit India movement YEARS of starving (and dying) in prison before they achieved anything of note. Even then, it was armed insurrection among the Indian military that finally scared the British out of India.
Occupy the polls. Occupy town meetings and local legislative boards. Occupy someplace— anyplace—where real decisions are made. But it’s not enough to just “occupy” that space. You must do something once there. And should you invite violence into your midst, you no longer “occupy” the moral high ground. If that happens you’ll cease to “occupy” the only thing that’s protecting you from a lurking circle of tear gas and tazers: