Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dissent, Repression, and the Occupy Movement

I confess that I'm not sure what the so-called "Occupy Movement" is for (or against). I find it even less coherent than the "Tea Party Movement," which is saying something. For all of its hypocrisy and historical confusion, the latter movement seems pretty easily explained by public choice theory: leave us alone, protect our stuff, and to hell with everyone else. The "Occupy Movement" seems altogether more varied, issuing statements that range from support of progressive taxation and more regulation of the financial services industry to a far more radical restructuring of the economy. Coherence and practical goals may not be the most important values for grassroots social movements, but they are unlikely to gain much social traction without them. From individual "occupiers," as reported in the press, I hear diverse, sometimes inconsistent, propositions, many of which I find disagreeable. But that is beside the point.

What I really want to focus on here is the increasing repression of the "Occupy Movement," which is in the process of being shut down in cities and on college campuses all across the US in what seems to be a coordinated overreaction to a perceived threat to business and the public order. No doubt cities and colleges have reasons, including maintenance of public/campus order and safety, to manage protesters on public lands. But in some cases, at least, colleges and municipalities seem intent on preventing protesters from continuing their protests, raising serious First Amendment concerns. Overall, the level of political repression seems to be on the increase. The video below shows police pepper-spraying and then arresting student protesters, who were sitting peacefully on a college campus, which is designed as a place for the exchange of ideas, including strongly dissenting opinions. As an American, I find this very troubling.

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