Occupy Wall Street: Abandoning the Law to Save It
Last week a concerned reader took issue with my negative comparison of the Occupy Wall Street protests to the Tea Party rallies—in particular my statement that “Tea Party rallies have been amazingly peaceful, with not a single arrest… across hundreds of cities and thousands of events…” The reader was correct—there were in fact Tea Party arrests I had overlooked.
In March of 2011, Jim Canelos was arrested in Mohave County, Arizona for wearing a flag hat at a county supervisors’ meeting that prohibited wearing hats.
In February of 2010, Mervin Fried was arrested in Kingman, Arizona for bringing a symbolic pitchfork to a protest in a county administration building. Fried argued that the county already allowed citizens to carry guns—a more dangerous weapon—into government buildings, and was later acquitted.
Most notably, in November of 2009, ten protestors angry over ObamaCare were arrested for engaging in disorderly conduct outside Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, D.C. The ralliers were discovered to have been organized by rabid anti-abortion activist and Democrat Randall Terry of Operation Rescue.
That’s it! A dozen Tea Party arrests in two-and-a-half years, most tied to anti-abortion protestors. Given the media’s left-wing slant, you can be sure that every arrest ever made at a Tea Party rally in the tiniest hamlet in the country has been thoroughly documented.
Now that we’ve gotten that straight, let’s examine the arrest record of Occupy Wall Street, which just hit its one-month anniversary:
• Several weeks ago in New York, over 700 protesters were arrested for marching into the vehicular lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge against police orders and cutting off traffic;
• Last Tuesday 129 protestors were arrested in Boston and 6 in D.C. for trespassing and disorderly conduct;
• On Saturday 92 protestors were arrested in New York for occupying a branch of Citibank, knocking down police barriers, and other offenses;
• Also on Saturday, 53 protestors in Tucson, 24 in Denver, and 19 in Raleigh were arrested for occupying public parks after closing time;
• On Sunday 175 protestors in Chicago were arrested for setting up a tent city and occupying Congress Plaza near Grant Park;
• Also on Sunday, 46 protestors were arrested in Phoenix for refusing to evacuate a public park at closing time
This is just a partial list and includes only roundups at the most high-profile rallies in the biggest cities.
Let’s not forget the recent riots abroad, mostly in Western Europe, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests. In Rome on Saturday, police arrested protestors for breaking windows, destroying statues, spraying graffiti on churches, vandalizing bank lobbies and ATM machines, smashing police cruisers, and setting dumpsters, cars, and military depots on fire; attacking police with batons, rocks, bottles, fire extinguishers, and bombs; injuring hundreds of innocents, mostly police officers; and causing millions in damage to public property and untold damage to private property.
(In one delicious footnote, Roman protestors expressed indignation that police hadn’t made more arrests of their most violent compatriots early on, so that the whole group wouldn’t be discredited. Damned if you enforce the law, damned if you don’t.)
So let’s examine the totals: 12 arrests for the Tea Party rallies, which have been going on for 30 months; and 1200 arrests for the Occupy Wall Street mobs, which have been going on for 30 days.
It’s awfully close, but I’m going to have to suggest that Occupy Wall Street is less law-abiding than the Tea Party. Yet to hear the mainstream media present it, Occupy Wall Street is every bit as peaceful and legitimate as the Tea Party.
The disparate treatment given to these wildly uneven tallies reflects the double standard set by the left-leaning media: One Tea Partier raising his fist in anger over intrusive government is as alarming as one thousand Occupy Wall Street protestors clashing with police.
Some commentators have noted that Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party both began out of anger over the nation’s largest banks being bailed out. Though the sources of their grievances overlap, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have used vastly different tactics to get across their messages. Ironically, the Tea Party, which is more suspicious of government, has been following the letter of the law. Occupy Wall Street, which favors more government regulation, has been trampling all over the law.
This irony is easily explainable: The Tea Party believes the government has legitimate, limited functions, such as the power of the police and courts to protect people from the initiation of force and violation of property rights. In contrast, Occupy Wall Street believes legitimate functions of government include providing universal healthcare, free college education, and a living wage; naturally, they see its policing functions as rather superfluous and heavy-handed, if not downright militaristic.
Thus, we have the spectacle of defense lawyers representing over 800 defendants in Manhattan’s criminal court system demanding that all charges be dropped for the protestors, and threatening individual trials for the miscreants, thus further clogging the system’s already overstuffed caseload. (Prepare for agitators to crow that their struggle was victorious and their motives vindicated after overburdened prosecutors inevitably throw in the towel.)
Just before the fall 2008 bank bailout, which most Democrats supported and most Republicans opposed, President Bush infamously observed that he had “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”
The members of a protest movement that claims to be concerned with justice have been wildly indiscriminate in their violation of the law. Occupy Wall Street protestors apparently believe they must abandon our civilized system of government in order to save it.