Requiem For Peaceful Protest

Remember back when the global economic protests were all about bongos and camping gear? It seems like only yesterday. Come to think of it, it was.

At this point all the major Occupy-Wall-Street protests have been swept away by police, leaving only a few scattered Show-Up-At-Wall-Street-And-Hang-Around-For-A-Bit-Before-Taking-The-Bus-Home protests in their place. The tents are down, the makeshift libraries and medical centres are gone, and the only people sleeping in parks these days are the old-school breed of economic casualties. Namely homeless meth addicts.

Marginalized by corporate media outlets that never passed up a photo op with the dippiest hippies, reporters couldn’t wait to talk to the next unfocused radical or glam-rock attention-seeker showboat, conveniently skipping over anybody involved in the movement who knew what the fuck they were talking about. “Where’s your leader? What’s your demand!” was all they could think to ask, which kinda misses the point by several hundred miles. The world already has its leaders, and look what a splendid job they’ve done of running the economy off a cliff. As for boiling it all down to a single demand, that’s impossible. The reason this has been such a successful, widespread movement is because the litany of complaints is so long, everyone feels included.

Now that the most obvious evidence of civil discord has been put out of sight, the media mills can’t help but gloat. Some have been terribly rude about it, others can’t quite muster that Rupert Murdock level of vitriol we’ve come to expect in our current age of disinformation. I had a look at the local right-wing shitbag newsrag that comes free in the mail along with the advertising fliers, coupons, and free food samples. It was sitting on the doormat when I came downstairs to look for some real mail. “Sorry, But It’s About Time,” screamed the headline in a civil, apologetic tone that pronounces “about” at the midpoint where “aboot” and “aboat” meet. The picture was of a pair local police officers carrying one of the last occupiers out of the park in a rather gentle fashion. A third officer brought up the rear, carrying the protester’s bag. Respectfully. If there had been a piece of hockey gear in the frame, it would be the single most Canadian front page I’d ever seen. At least under a Conservative party majority.

Cops in other cities didn’t play so nicey-nice, and there are protesters painted pepper-spray orange to prove it. I guess it’s reassuring to know that when the MUC police force trample our basic human rights, they do so politely, with Nerf riot gear. Well, unless you’re a black man who gets all uppity and decides to drive an automobile in broad daylight while recklessly obeying the rules of the road of course. Then they’ll blow your ass away.

Before tent city had its stakes pulled up, I went down for a visit. Occupy Wall Street was Occupy Victoria Square up here. And although I didn’t strike a single beat on a drum, bongo or otherwise, I had a leisurely wander around the site that had roughly two hundred tents by my quick count and bad math. It was all as peaceful and non-violent as advertised, and I knew I was witnessing history. This was the last moment in the coming global turmoil that would play out so civilly. It can only get nastier from here.

With the camps forced out, the powers-that-be think they’ve won. But it was a terrible strategy on their part. They could have just waited for occupiers to get bored and cold and go home. Failing that, they could have waited for the cholera to set in and wipe them out. Either way, the protest problem would have resolved itself, and no one would have had to look like a fascist. But no. There are just too many cops and politicians and pundits who are just dying to slip on the jackboots and see if they make for a perfect Cinderella-fit.

The problems are all still there. The issues are all still there. Things are getting worse, not better. And the movement is now on the move. You got violent with the peaceniks and now you can bet that the next wave of protesters is going to be prepared to step it up. All you did was let everybody know that no matter how peaceful the protest, eventually The Man is going to come down hard with billy clubs and tear gas. Round two will only escalate accordingly, and there will be fewer verses of Kumbaya in the drum circle before things turn ugly.

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