Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Prevent violent occupations with a truce
When not if, I fear. When occupation becomes violent, the nation will shake and divide into pieces. We should prepare for the losses, the injuries, the investigations, the memorial services. Right now, America seems in denial of this inevitable. Are there preventive measures the movement and law enforcement can take, even mutually in a coordinated way? Do people have keen informed wise eyes upon this issue of probable violence?
Historical movements such as this, movements with good intentions of order and peaceful gathering, have invited, motivated, inspired others to violent means to achieve the ends. And often the ends, the purpose of the movement, its existence even suffered. Yet history teems with examples where violent, loosely affiliated factions raised the stakes and achieved ends far beyond the peaceful movement’s dreams.
Law enforcement agencies have their hands full with this growing movement. Our law enforcement agencies have little recent experience in dealing with civil disobedience and unrest on a large scale. The demonstrators are novices as well. Conditions of uncertainty and lack of training spell positive conditions for negative results all around.
My suggestion for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movements across the nation and for law enforcement agencies is to declare a two week stand-down, a truce, in order to meet together as citizens and develop procedures and rules, ways to schedule gatherings, and liaise with one another; to literally place demonstrator liaisons with law enforcement and visa versa.
The movement needs the training and thinking time as well as those public servants, local, state and federal with the mission to serve and protect. Is it possible to call a constructive truce? Could the movement benefit from the wisdom of Civil Rights and Viet Nam-era protest organizers? Does the OWS loose network desire a tighter one?
The OWS movement, while benefitting from social network tools, extraordinary communication methods running on corporate digital rivers, drowns in torrent of information that does not equate to intelligence. Intelligence begins with tough questions, not clean crisp answers. One of my questions is: How can an advanced society such as ours prevent violence in the midst of real protest, real gatherings of people?
Restraint is not enough. We need time. Time to coordinate, speak, listen, write, train, and listen some more. The OWS movement could also suggest a moratorium on physical movement, and instead adopt a tactic of peaceful static gatherings. When people move from point A to point B, hurtling masses of humanity have a greater potential to clash, bump, shove, and break barriers.
This week, I’ve been reading about the Bonus Army, an occupation of Washington DC by World War I veterans in 1932. I know the motivations and conditions are not exactly the same, but there are similarities. Later this week, I’ll share what I’ve learned…again. I suppose this makes me an armchair, laptop’d, amateur historical analyst, a novice. I‘m trying my best to wrap my head around this OWS movement and I feel deeply worried for us. Sometimes it feels as if we’re walking into the future, with our heads turned over our shoulders, looking back at history, while it falls upon us like an avalanche, throwing us forward, too quickly in a drafty windy rush of dust and rubble.
I wonder if there’s a Bonus Army member alive today; someone who could tell the story of how MacArthur ordered the troops to advance, orders dispatched via aides such as young Eisenhower, to commanders like Patton.
It’s time to declare a truce and perhaps take the time to develop a mutual treaty. Can the OWS orchestrate such a stand-down? Can we sacrifice momentum for wisdom?