State forces don’t know what to make of the 99 percent movement whose occupation of Wall Street has spawned actions across the U.S. Yves Smith points out in “Naked Capitalism” that press efforts to diminish the potential of this effort have had to abandon their initial patronizing reporting and now “attribute the increased interest to gawking rather than solidarity. For instance, the Financial Times headline is ‘Fed up and curious swell anti-Wall Street ranks.’ So in one neat sentence, that suggests there is a hard (and by implication, not large) core of protestors, joined by malcontents and sensation seekers along for the ride.”
At the same time, the state is corroded by the loss of social legitimacy for governmental institutions. Juan Cole compared the responsiveness of the U.S. administration to popular protest unfavorably with Egypt’s: “who could have imagined that by fall of 2011 there still had been no significant reform of Wall Street so as to forestall effectively a repeat of the 2008 crash? Surely such reforms were part of the change people voted for in 2008? But ‘legislative capture,’ the process in American politics whereby the industries and corporations regulated by Congress tend to ‘capture’ the legislators through campaign contributions, and then write the legislation themselves that regulates their industry, ensures that very little change can be enacted by Congress.”
One sign of this corrosion is the ambivalence or even sympathy for the protesters’ cause by rank-and-file members of the NYPD when approached as individuals. White-shirted high-ranking officers have had to be drafted in to enforce the disciplining of protesters, in particular directing the 700 arrests made on Saturday as they tried to march over Brooklyn Bridge.
The New York Times reported: “As the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began on Sept. 17, lurches into its third week, it is often the white shirts laying hands on protesters or initiating arrests. Video recordings of recent clashes have shown white shirts — lieutenants, captains or inspectors — leading underlings into the fray. … Martin R. Stolar, a member of the National Lawyers Guild who is representing protesters, said, ‘It appears that it is white shirts that are directing the rough arrests.’ To him, their actions constitute a policy, from on high. Even the chief of department, Joseph J. Esposito, its highest-ranking officer, was mixing with marchers last Saturday, briefly holding two people by the arm and directing their arrests.”
Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out the very different approach of blue-shirted police on the ground to the ranking officers who grabbed and assaulted one onlooker for legally videoing police activity. And BagNews’ reconstruction of the images showing pepper-spraying of women protesters also highlighted the participation of high-ranking police in arrests: “A video of the incident records that street cop saying to Inspector Bologna: That’s not procedure. You fucking maced us!’ His is not the only objection, the ambivalence of the street cops to the actions of the higher ups is in nearly all of the photos and screen grabs printed here. In gestures and looks, the body language suggests the street cops were taken aback.”
Far from being intimidated, the protesters’ solidarity was enhanced by the Brooklyn Bridge arrests. “Around 1 a.m., the first of the protesters held at the Midtown North Precinct on West 54th Street were released. They were met with cheers from about a half-dozen supporters who said they had been waiting as a show of solidarity since 6 p.m. for around 75 people they believed were held there. … The scene outside the Midtown South Precinct on West 35th Street around 2 a.m. was far more jovial. Only about 15 of the rumored 57 people had been released, but about a dozen waiting supporters danced jigs in the street to keep warm. … “It’s cold,” said Rebecca Solow, 27, rubbing her arms as she waited on the sidewalk, “but every time one is released, it warms you up” (New York Times).
The movement is developing rapidly and changing daily. Many strands of opposition to the depredations of capitalism are being brought together through the universalizing message of “We are the 99 percent,” including people protesting in Canada against Cheney’s book tour. Groups who began by chanting “tax the rich” have gone on to demand the arrest of NY Federal Board Member and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who became notorious for describing higher capital requirements for US mortgage securities as “anti-American.”
In a guest post, Zerohedge.com commented: “Sitting in his prime position as a Class A NY Federal Reserve director before, during and since the fall 2008 crisis period (he was re-elected in 2010, the same year he bagged a $17 million bonus), Dimon’s callous attitude toward global and domestic risk and the banks’ role in it, is particularly heinous. This summer, JPM Chase settled (with no admission of guilt) fraud charges for its CDO practices for $153.6 million. There are a plethora of class-action suits in the pipeline. No matter. Old habits don’t die without being killed. So far this year, JPM Chase is the world’s top creator of securities backed by commercial loans (or CMBS) with 19.5% of the market. Absent stricter regulations to the contrary, such as resurrecting the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, it also happens to be the top loan contributor (or supplier of loans) for CMBS deals. Lending and packaging loans in the same bank is an obviously perilous mix. And if you think CMBS won’t be another subprime, guess again. CMBS delinquencies are at record highs. More dangerous, JPM Chase is second only to Goldman Sachs in credit derivatives exposure and runs a $73 trillion derivatives book.”
Today, it is those who are mobilizing against these heinous activities who are being arrested. But it is only a matter of time before the true criminals are brought to a new kind of justice: people are chanting “Make Them Pay”.