Then there were the protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. If you look past the pundits you can see, among other things, tear gass and beatings.
Or the recent student riots in London with police charging on horseback:
These pictures make the police reactions to the Wall Street protestors seem certainly more moderate, if in some instances incredibly painful. But those very painful incidents do not seem to provide enough contrast to justify the Nation’s recent explanation of the low turn out for the protests:
The teargas aside starts to tap into something important: how the police state and its domestic weaponry and bureaucratic assist with the needs for permits to do anything in protests have successfully crippled the activism community. Activists are afraid. You can smell it in their midst. They talk about the constant presence of agent provocateurs and undercovers at every protest. They share battle stories of being abused by the police … And these are the brave ones that still show up to the protests.
It’s not mere paranoia. We know for a fact that the FBI monitors activism groups, and this practice reached a frenzied level during the Bush administration years. These intimidation practices continue under President Obama in the form of raids.
Now, imagine you have a job you can’t get time off from, or kids. Are you going to risk that precious job security, or the safety of your children, to go protest in an event that may—if you’re really lucky—get some dismissive coverage in the New York Times?
There was a time when individuals cast aside those fears because they had union-protected jobs, and unions organized events with tens of thousands of confidence-inspiring fellow members in attendance. While those events do still occur, they’re a rarity these days as union membership dwindles, the privatization of the country continues and the establishment media still don’t grant them fair coverage when they do occur. Not one of the young people I spoke to at the Occupy Wall Street protest said they were union members.
I don’t know what the difference between the 1960”s and protectors today in the US is, but police brutality does not seem to be it. Nor, for those who remember the initial reporting of student protects, is it the sort of belittling journalism that the NY Times indulged in, and the Nation is criticizing; there was plenty of that then.
Perhaps one difference is that the protects before were coming from universities, and students were well versed in getting into groups and planning things. Here’s an interesting clip about the planning before the Chicago riots: