US Catholic Faith in Real Life

OWS protests suffer stormy weekend

Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

While the N.Y. Occupy Wall Streeters endured a tricky Halloween snowstorm, in other cities "occupy" protestors did not have to contend with mother nature, but civic officials growing weary of the 24-hour demonstrations. Arrests were made in a number of cities and the pushback by police in Oakland and Denver was especially tough on the demonstrators, one in Oakland suffering a fractured skull after being struck in the forehead by some kind of projectile, apparently a teagas canister or a rubber bullet. Having attended a demonstration in my youth trying to draw attention to the apparently intentional lethal deployment of "nonlethal" crowd control weapons like rubber bullets during the worst days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I have to say I find it a little disquieting to learn that these methods are already being turned to in confrontations with what have largely been peaceful assemblies of U.S. citizens seeking to articulate their greivances. 

Where this campaign goes from here is anyone's guess, but if the past is a guide, the police overreaction on crowd control may ratchet tensions up even further in the near future while encouraging fresh OWS recruits. Recall that in September the OWS effort seemed to already be dissapating when footage of women being inexplicably pepper sparyed by police on a N.Y. sidewalk went viral. The movement soon did the same. Trying to contain this nationwide phenomenon with force may likely only further enliven it.

Why protestors are likely to keep coming back despite efforts to tamp down these demonstrations was touched on by some data released last week. Two reports add more evidence of the vast wealth and income gulf opening up in the United States in recent decades as public policy, particularly the tax code, seem to have become the property of the highest bidding campaign contributors. A Congresssional Budget Office study reports that between 1979 and 2007 after-tax income for the highest-income households grew more than it did for any other group, more than 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households; 65 percent for the next 19 percent; 40 percent for the next 60 percent; and 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.

And take a gander at this depressing "social justice" report card prepared by the N.Y. Times (see "America's Exploding Pipe Dream") with data from a Bertelsmann Foundation report that compared social equity and outcomes in OECD member states. The U.S. holds up the rear in most measures, which include overall poverty, child poverty, poverty prevent,  in close competition with Mexico, Greece, Turkey and Chile for worst OECD performance.