Atlanta, Nashville, Salt Lake, Portland, Ore., Oakland (twice) and now the New York City epicenter.
As winter approaches and larger contingents of homeless people migrate to Occupy encampments, police departments across the country are moving aggressively to shut them down.
No question. City officials, pulled between issues of freedom of speech and sometimes legitimate concerns about public safety and health, have their hands full. But I question whether old techniques of moving the poor and displaced out of sight (and out of mind) will work this time. Unemployment among those between 18 and 29 has reached 13 percent, The Boston Globe reported on Monday. And those figures don’t include the underemployed or those working several part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Whatever happens for now, the Occupy movement has made its mark. News has finally focused on the enormous and growing disparities between the “1 percent” (and especially the .1 percent) and everyone else. Republican politicians may still be throwing their bodies in front of any effort to raise taxes on the richest. But it’s only a matter of time before their bodies get pushed out of the way, just like the Occupy protesters.
(The latest report, issued interestingly by conservative Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, says that millionaires received an additional $30 billion in federal largesse in 2009, several times more than the Environmental Protection Agency budget. This somehow included $21 million in unemployment insurance, The Huffington Post reports.).
As Bob Dylan once sang, The Times They Are a Changin’. And even if the Occupy camps get pushed aside or shut down this winter, I suspect they will re-appear, stronger and smarter, come Spring.
Who will benefit politically from this amorphous but spreading and stirring movement is unknown. What seems clear, however, is that the American people are no longer satisfied to suffer in silence.