No American can claim to be immune from poverty today, and that creates the possibility of forming new alliances across racial and class lines to fight back against the one percent. That’s why, as Juan Cole pointed out, Congress “has been pushing weird acts that only benefit authoritarian politicians and some billionaire corporations recently, and which are wholly injurious to American liberties.” This includes a senate bill to allow the military to arrest U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, including within the U.S.
These bizarre anti-American laws speak to the rewriting of the constitution by the Homeland Security establishment. This has empowered the police to create so-called “frozen zones” to confine the press and prevent them from witnessing what actually takes place when occupiers are evicted. The authorities have conducted an ideological war against the occupiers through manipulated press stories to neutralize public opinion, and have coordinated the control of non-mainstream media press to make sure that public sympathy isn’t regenerated by more images of police using disproportionate force to punish nonviolent protesters.
In Washington, Occupy K Street-DC erected a plywood building on Saturday night for General Assemblies, teach-ins, and winter shelter. Although the prefabricated structure was designed by architects to be safe and have the legal status of a tent, police arrived on Sunday morning and gave the occupiers one hour to dismantle it. When they refused, the police started to make arrests, put up metal barriers around the building, removed the media to a spot where they couldn’t observe what was happening, and used horses to push back the crowd. Hundreds of supporters continued to rally at the scene late on Sunday, as the police continued to arrest those standing by and on the structure.
Linked to the eviction of occupations is an orchestrated circumscribing of constitutional rights. When Occupy Wall Street supporters marched to protest an Obama fund-raising event on Wednesday evening, they were penned into an area within sight of the Sheraton Hotel where the event was being held. According to the New York Times, when Obama was due to arrive, “[NYPD] officers informed demonstrators that the area had been designated a ‘frozen zone’ until the president’s departure: They were not allowed to leave their enclosure, bound by three lines of barricades and a Chase bank.”
“Frozen zones” also made their appearance at last week’s evictions of Occupy Philadelphia and Occupy LA. In These Times blogger Alison Kilkenny noted, “During the raid of Occupy LA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a midnight press release that included the line, ‘During the park closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.’ The statement alarmed many individuals, including some journalists due to its creepy Orwellian language. … In mid-November, journalist Josh Harkinson reported on being alerted about the existence of the ‘frozen zone’ when he attempted to cover the eviction of Liberty Park.”
Kilkenny quotes an observer at the Occupy LA raid who described how the media “were treated to a display of courteous policing and nonviolence by the police. Even I was impressed by the police. The operation was smooth and efficient and tactical. Then the pool media was divided from the regular media, and kept in the inner circle. They were not present to witness the brutality and violence enacted by LAPD officers who were kettling and running after protestors in order to beat them outside the park and mainstream media attention. LAPD smoothly kept MSM from witnessing this, and tried to control other media by constant kettling and dividing of the crowd.”
The Occupy movement is continuing to spread its message of “We Are the 99 percent” across the country despite the official narrative that it is finished. A reporter marching with Occupy protesters from New York to Washington observed: “There is the Occupy shown by the news media, defined by police clashes and a lack of hygiene — images that tell non-Occupiers that the movement is leaderless, chaotic and on its way out. But as the marchers passed through towns large and small, and ordinary Americans came out of their homes and businesses to give food, money and words of support, it became clear that this movement isn’t going away.”
Not only are protesters refusing to be intimidated by militarized police attacks, but also their message has stuck: the concept of the “99 percent” has been reflected in workplace strike struggles and the rhetoric of some Democratic politicians. On a visit to the U.S., novelist Arundhati Roy praised the protests for “reigniting a new political imagination” which also revealed the nervousness of the political elite.
What seems to be motivating the concentrated state action against a mere handful of occupiers is the symbolic nature of the occupations, which subverts the ruling elite’s narrative. The occupiers took over public spaces to assert popular sovereignty against the laws of property ownership that make people indebted to landlords and banks. They made homelessness visible – many Americans are on the brink of it – and were a permanent focus for different groups within American society to work together on social problems despite their differences.
This is a major achievement and a massive blow against the divide-and-rule ideology of the plutocrats which depends on maintaining racial and class antagonisms. They have tolerated the idea of civil rights as long as it was agreed these didn’t apply to the poor, who could be kept out of sight or imprisoned. The Occupy movement can’t solve all the problems of society. But the plutocrats are on notice: despite frozen zones, the American people are awakening from the cryogenic sleep of the last thirty years. We are bringing on the Big Thaw.