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Watching Occupy ( #occupyla #occupyphilly )

It seems like tonight coordinated actions are going on in Philly and LA.  In Philly the occupiers peacefully left the park when the police asked them to leave, and instead started marching around the city.  In LA things are tense, with tons and tons of police surrounding the areas where the protesters are.  No idea what will end up happening.  Expectation seems to be that something will happen after midnight Pacific time.  We shall see.  Maybe it will.  Maybe it won’t.

I’m watching intently, mainly at these locations:

To reiterate what I’ve said a couple of times on the podcast my basic position is this:  I generally don’t like protesters.  I find them annoying.  You will not find me at a protest.  And Occupy in specific I believe has raised awareness of a few issues, but it isn’t as if there are any particular realistic actions that could be taken to make them happy.  And Occupy has lived up to the annoyance level of most protests and more, and the 24 hour occupations really seem unnecessary and excessive to me.  For the most part they are just making noise and being annoying.

However…  I believe that this kind of expression, and the ability to do so whenever and wherever people want, and without restriction or unnecessary intervention by the government, is or should be one of the most important values of a democracy.  I don’t care if these guys are Occupy, or the Klan, or the Tea Party or whoever, the government should stay the hell out, and let people express their political thoughts.  Yes, in certain circumstances when health or safety are really in danger, some actions may be necessary.  But we as a society should bend over backwards to help facilitate end encourage the free and varied expression of political thought, not spend resources to restrict, confine and repress it.  And certainly we have not seen anything yet in this series of protests that would warrant any of the responses we have seen nationwide so far, let alone anything more.

Luckily, so far, none of these things have spiraled into a really violent situation (despite a handful of serious injuries), but each time we get an official response trying to remove these guys, we run that risk.  And for no real reason.  There is no compelling need to remove any of these protesters.

And does nobody remember that trying to repress movements often just makes them stronger and more radical than ever?  Is that what is wanted here?  Are all these mayors (and whatever national people are “helping” and “coordinating” between them) just absolutely nuts?  Why?  Just why?  The best thing to do is just provide public safety support when needed, but let the protesters do their thing.  If left alone, eventually they would get tired, declare victory and go home.  Instead, on a regular basis we are risking violence and chaos as confrontations are forced by the police.

And that is before you even consider reports tonight of restrictions on media movement and what the media is “allowed” to report or show live.  That is so beyond the pale for a democracy.  Thank goodness we now live in a world where everybody with a smartphone can report live from the scene and you don’t actually need the local TV stations and newspapers to get a view of what is happening, as they seem to be willing to roll over and live with any restrictions the authorities ask for.

I look at the protesters and I shake my head and think they are nuts.

But I look at the government responses to the protesters and I weep for my country.