Whatever you think of the “Occupy” protests, please consider: If they cannot be in the parks, and they cannot be in the schools, and they cannot be in the town squares – then where should they go?
If the public squares of our cities and towns are not the appropriate venue to assemble peacefully, to speak publicly, and to petition for redress of perceived wrongs, then where would you have them go? Where, today, is it appropriate to stand up and speak a controversial opinion? It is clearly not the universities, you get pepper sprayed there. Nor is it the doorstep of the financial companies in wall street, that space apparently needs to be cleaned out with shocking regularity. Public parks are not the answer, questions of sanitiation come to the fore. Anywhere able to accomodate a few thousand citizens gathered to speak their minds seems shockingly unavailable.
Seriously: Where would you put these people?
To paraphrase Agent Smith from The Matrix: What good is a right to a phone call, if you cannot speak?
I don’t read anonymous comments online anymore, but when I slip and have to wipe some commentary off my shoes, I can’t help catching a whiff of “they had it coming,” about the protesters getting pushed around. I see pictures of storm-trooper clad police, toe to toe with people who look a lot like me. I had always assumed that, should I want to protest, I would be able to make up a sign, go downtown, and not risk getting billy-clubbed or shot with rubber bullets.
There are thousands of people at these protests, nationwide. The protests are happening in every major city in America, and a bunch of the smaller ones too. This is not a small thing, and it is not going away. The people in the protests seem to be mainly American citizens, mainly peaceful, and mainly organized around a few primary points. Their desires are ever-so-slowly crystallizing into a clearer agenda – but for the moment they appear to merely want to speak and be heard.
Where would you have them go?