Mayor Bloomberg’s Scorn for Occupy Wall Street
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his weekly appearance on “The John Gambling Show” on AM WOR710, addressed the persistence of those participating Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. It was an example of a member of the power elite voicing his or her contempt for protest. It was also clear that Gambling has scorn for the protest, too, as the discussion begins with the question, “How do you end that thing?”
The protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the bottom line. These are the people that work on Wall Street in the finance sector. Most of these companies are no longer on Wall Street. We just use that as a catch-all term. And people in this day and age need support for their employers. We need the banks. If the banks don’t go out and make loans, we will not come out of our economic problems. We will not have jobs. So, anything we can do to responsibly help the banks do that encourages them to do that is what we need.
But, what about the systemic corruption of the financial services industry and the executives whose actions collapsed the economy in 2008?
I think we spend much too much time in this country worrying about why we got into problems as opposed to how we go forward. We are worried about why we had mortgage problems as opposed to worried about how we’re going to get more people to buy houses and take mortgages. Mortgage trades are at an all-time low and yet we don’t see a lot of new starts in housing, certainly not what we had before. And, also we always tend to blame the wrong people. We blame the banks. They were part of this but so was Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Congress and you and me and everybody.
This may be true of the population, but it is certainly not true of the power elite or establishment media. The Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi has feverishly worked to expose Goldman Sachs. He has examined financial services getting away with mortgage fraud while the media has, after cutting a few book deals on “what really happened” in 2008, gone back to mostly pretending all is well again.
And, in general, this is not true at all. When it comes to civil liberties, President Barack Obama & Congress have not been willing to investigate and prosecute torture. They have not been willing to hold any sort of truth commission. They have opposed “re-litigating” the past. There has been no debate about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how they are both illegal wars of aggression. There has been no serious look at how 9/11 was blowback, a result of America having military forces occupying land in the Middle East. So, it appears Bloomberg is upset that the American population is forcing him to address issues he would rather pretend are non-existent.
Gambling asks, “Will you let them stay as long as they want to stay or is there ultimately an endgame?” Gambling appears to want Bloomberg to divulge when the city will be sending forces in to disperse the occupiers.
We’ll see. It’s—You know, people have a right to protest. You know people have a right to protest but we also have to make sure that people who don’t want to protest can go down the streets unmolested. We have to make sure that while you have a right to say what you want to say, people who want to say something very different have a right to say that as well. That’s what’s great about this country.
With all the police on the scene, there is absolutely no way that any person is being molested or that New Yorkers are being obstructed in their effort to walk the sidewalk and get to where they need to go. This is but another example of Bloomberg’s contempt for protest. What may be getting in New Yorkers’ way are the vehicles and equipment moved down to lower Manhattan to turn Wall Street into a “Green Zone” and protect the financial elite.
Bloomberg suggested there could be sanitation problems. A city sanitation representative has actually praised Occupy Wall Street for being clean.
Gambling chimed in, “It’s also a private park.” Bloomberg explained it is a private park but is open to the public. This affirms what the NYPD has said which is there is nothing they can do to shut it down. Brookfield Properties, which owns the park, can make regulations and establish codes for conduct but it is to be open 24/7.
Finally, Bloomberg decides to bring the history of Vietnam War protests on Wall Street into the mix to further disparage the protesters:
I remember in the Vietnam War there were enormous protests on Wall Street. And I’ve always thought one of the sad things was when the Vietnam veterans came back we didn’t treat them the way they deserved to be treated. Today our army’s are volunteers. Those days it was conscription. And they went over and some didn’t come back to protect the very freedoms that we have. And you can say whether you’re for or against the war, but I guess nobody’s in favor of a war. Whether you think it is necessary or not is a better way to phrase it. Our vets deserve respect when they got back. I just always thought that’s what America is about.
The occupation is in protest of Wall Street so it is fascinating that Bloomberg takes a pot shot at the occupiers by recounting his memory of protests during Vietnam that had to do with a war. This is a nice effort on Bloomberg’s part to make it seem like the occupiers are the kind of people who hold profound disrespect for veterans. Since Americans are to believe all who are down there are “dirty hippies” and not working or middle class Americans, Bloomberg tries to score a political point here by exploiting veterans and reminding people in the Sixties these people were “disrespectful.” The only problem is there are, in fact, veterans down on Wall Street participating in the action.
Bloomberg appears to reflexively fall back on this right wing talking point, which is that people wouldn’t have the right to protest if soldiers didn’t go fight wars and so we should support the troops. That has little to do with why Wall Street should be protested but has everything to do with Americans’ understanding of dissent.
If anything, having soldiers deployed puts limits on dissent. Americans cannot speak up about wars of occupation if the powers that be deem them essential to American foreign policy. They cannot condemn the presence of more than 800 bases in countries all over the world. They cannot be allowed to unapologetically support Palestine and oppose Israel without propaganda or coercive measures being used to discredit and silence people. That is because if such criticisms gained traction the US might have to change its policies and then there would be global complications for the US.
The right to dissent is not ordained by the presence of the military in nations around the globe. That is what the power elite like Bloomberg and talking heads in the media like Gambling wish to believe. The right is afforded to citizens by the government. It can be violated if the government chooses to violate that right. One’s right to dissent can be violated in a court of law. The police can also choose to brutalize Americans for protesting and say they had to control the crowd to justify their action.
The occupation has been going on for about two weeks now. Mayor Bloomberg can say, “We’ll see,” when asked if he will let the protests continue, but the reality is that a moment is upon New York City. That moment has spread across America. He may be able to run these people out of a public park but they will reappear in some other area. These people have had enough. And, Bloomberg’s bad memories of the Sixties won’t keep them from demonstrating.