Clearing out the Occupy Wall Street protesters — and preventing the press from witnessing the crackdown — is a betrayal of American democracy's finest values.
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
I was awakened in the wee hours of this morning by texts and calls from friends and associates distraught that Occupy Wall Street protesters were being forcibly removed from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Even more troubling is that you chose to make a mockery of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by not only evicting the peaceful activists, but also by blocking media outlets from recording the police raid. This is America, Mr. Bloomberg, a nation that through much effort, tears, blood and, yes, deaths, has evolved from a slaveholding country that also destroyed much of Native American culture, to one where women, people of color, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the physically challenged, Jews, Muslims, white ethnics from places like Ireland and Italy and so many others have been able to gain some measure of freedom and democracy. We are not the nation we ought to be, yet, but we are also not the nation we once were, either.
As I watched the amateur video made of the raid online this morning, I got very choked up. I am a big supporter of Occupy Wall Street because it speaks directly to my history as a Black person in America. The occupation is nothing more than the bus boycotts, freedom rides and sit-ins of the civil rights era. The nonviolent approach harkens back to the principles of Dr. King, borrowed, of course, from the great Indian leader Gandhi. The use of technology to spread the Occupy Wall Street messages is no different than how W. E. B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and other visionaries used the media at their disposal in their day to communicate with the masses. So when we choose to walk down the path of repression, of removing and silencing those who would speak out, we are saying that we are choosing to be on the wrong side of history. That we are choosing to be in bed with the devil, instead of on the side of God, of the noble promises of our America.
I have not witnessed a movement like this since the anti-apartheid protests of the 1980s. It is the same energy, the same sense of purpose and the same fire-in-belly belief that what they are doing is right. They are not anti-American. They are not anti-business. They are not anti-wealthy folks. They are not anti-police. They are not anti-you, Mr. Mayor. They, we, merely want to see our nation be a place where people, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion or educational level can have an opportunity to have an opportunity; to not struggle to get or keep a job or career; to not struggle to pay for an education, which should be our birthright; to not suffer through housing woes, including foreclosures; to not have to spend our entire lives in debt, broke or broken spiritually and emotionally because of our finances.
Justice is, forever, on the side of those who would even sacrifice their own bodies because they believe so deeply in their cause. Those are the kind of people I know, from their tents, blankets and makeshift occupied communities, will do for America exactly what those civil rights workers did with their shoes, overalls, songs of freedom and voter registration cards a generation ago. And so it shall be, and so it shall be—
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Kevin Powell is an activist, public speaker, and author or editor of 10 books. His 11th book, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: And Other Blogs and Essays, will be published by lulu.com in January 2012. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Kevin Powell. A full version of this blog can be found here.
(Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)