Machine politicians in Los Angeles and Philadelphia acted to preserve the status quo that’s enriching them Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, by ordering police to break up the Occupy Wall Street camps outside their respective city halls. More than 200 pro-democracy protesters were arrested.
About 1,400 police officers took part in the late-night operation in Los Angeles under the direction of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa two days after the Democrat ordered marchers out. Most of the OWS protesters in Philly left before police began pulling down their tent community at the direction of Mayor Michael Nutter, who also is part of the Democratic political machine.
Over 150 protesters were arrested in Los Angeles, police told the BBC, while about 50 arrests were made in Philadelphia.
“Mayor Villaraigosa, shame on you,” Rick Hauptman posted on Villaraigosa’s Facebook page. “Your lack of understanding and support for the First Amendment, the right to free speech and the right to assemble, disgusts me.”
Comments on both mayoral Facebook pages were overwhelmingly negative.
“The only ones who should be jailed are the ones trying to suppress our first amendment rights,” Jeff Cooper wrote on Nutter’s page.
Mayors have cited public health and safety concerns as their justification for suppressing marchers’ constitutional rights to free speech and assembly in cities across the United States as part of a coordinated crackdown that has exposed the nation’s drift from representative democracy to oligarchy.
The raids have also exposed the divide between the 1% that rules the U.S. and derives a disproportionate share of its benefits via lower tax rates, nepotism-related hiring and unlimited access to the most advanced health care system in the world, and the 99% that routinely shoulders a disproportionate share of its burdens, such as military service, unemployment and inadequate access to affordable medical care.
Protesters in LA who refused to leave the OWS camp were pulled out one by one and arrested by police. Beanbag projectiles were used to remove the final three protesters, who had taken shelter in a makeshift tree house, according to police commander Andrew Smith. No serious injuries were reported.
“Once the park is cleared, it will be repaired and returned to all Angelenos to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Villaraigosa said in a statement.
The raids represent a crossroads for Occupy Wall Street. The leaderless nonviolent movement faces the challenge of evolving from a grassroots pro-democracy collective of street protesters into a lasting force for change, without being co-opted by machine politicians. OWS has already forged tentative ties with elements of the U.S. labor movement, which has a history of allowing small ruling cabals to elevate themselves financially at the expense of younger workers.