In the late 1960s there was a generational battle, rampant idealism, ugly brutality, youth crying, “Trust no one over thirty!” police cracking heads and making mass arrests. Now there’s another kids and cops confrontation. It’s happening in lower Manhattan where “Occupy Wall Street” protesters are trying to camp out in Zuccotti Park. They complain that Wall Street was the cause of the 2008 financial debacle, but no Wall streeter has ever been called to account. Beyond that there seems to be no agenda, no specific demands, no identifiable leaders. Is it a one-off, or the precursor of more to come? One panicky officer used pepper spray on four women, and other police carry plastic riot shields, portending
Some say it is nothing but a few attention-needy copy-cats stirred up by the Arab Spring. Another view is that it is a reaction against the Tea Party, whose minions, arriving in Congress after the 2010 elections, unwilling to budge from extreme positions, terrorized traditional Republicans who knew that a divided party would fall to the Democrats. So they caved. And now not one of their aspiring presidential candidates dare defy it. On the contrary, each competes in bowing and scraping. This poisons a major political party, controls the House of Representatives, and paralyzes the nation. Young people see it as compromising their future and are taking to the streets, the ultimate bastion of the powerless, turning first upon Wall Street, which they view as the belly of the beast.
Suckerfish like Noam Chomsky have already latched on. Expect Ralph Nader to
History may seem to be repeating itself, but don’t be fooled. Twitter and Facebook can be mobilized to create Flash Mobs. Police force will quickly trigger bigger, more violent protests. If it catches fire in states where concealed weapons are legal, consequences could make the worst of the 1960s seem benign.
Michael Bloomberg, NYC’s best mayor since Fiorello LaGuardia, is certainly aware of the dangers, but how much control has he over the situation, or over his own panicky police department?
Keep your fingers crossed.