Tonight is a pivotal moment for me. Up until now, I did not fully align myself with the Occupy Wall Street protests. I sympathized with many of their sentiments and complaints, but I had reservations about the movement because it was and remains very nebulous. There is no specific solution they are fighting for other than general change, and there are vehement disagreements inside the movement about how to achieve that redress of grievances.
Then, after a particularly distressing night of work, I was making my usual rounds of ye old Intarwebs when my Twitter feed started to explode. YouTube videos of tear gas and rubber bullets erupting into a standing crowd started pouring in, along with signs of solidarity from across the country. A blatant violation of our constitutional rights occurred in Oakland, Calif., and President Barack Obama was fundraising just 10 miles away.
Many arguments about how the protestors were warned have already been made, but they are moot. The people pay for the police to protect them, not to use violence against them because a governmental body decided they had enough of peaceable assembly. No matter which side of the fence you are on, the taxpaying people own the streets -- not the city, not the state, not the federal government. In America, law-abiding adults are free to be outside their home at any hour they choose. The First Amendment is very explicit:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
There is no ambiguity here. These people were not rioting. They were standing in a public space with their peers, causing no harm to person or property -- and they were met with violence by the people they pay to protect them because a government of few had a rapid change of opinion and decided it no longer wanted the protestors to be where they were. For weeks, cities and counties have found ways to declare the protestors' actions illegal to try to hamper and dissuade them, but they are not stopping.
For the first time since these demonstrations began, I hope they don't stop. I may join them this weekend, consequences be damned. I have largely used my employment as a journalist as an excuse to stay away from the protests to avoid creating a perception of bias for the company I represent, but I love this job because it serves the people by providing a service that is crucial to the maintenance of freedom. I now believe that our basic freedoms are under assault. The only solution to this is to remind those sitting in our elected offices who they serve. They have gotten away with not having to listen to us for too long.
I think a few fundamental concepts are escaping the majority of those in power right now.
Firstly, a peaceful population is not necessarily a passive population. Just because we have the moral fortitude not to shoot at and burn those with whom we disagree or disapprove of, that doesn't mean mass discontent is any less threatening. Countless moments in history -- even current events like the Arab Spring -- have repeatedly shown that the will of people cannot and should not be suppressed. Especially not by force.
Secondly, the people of this country do not exist to maintain the government and companies within the borders. Both are supposed to serve us. They exist to perform services we, the people, either request or demand -- but we do not need them, and it is getting to the point where we don't want what they're serving us. They must remember that and adapt or perish, because at the end of the day, the Wall Street protestors are fighting for the American Dream. For the chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With the way this country seems to be going, this movement might be that reverie's last stand.