“The people united will never be defeated,” chanted the Occupy Boston protesters who had expanded their peaceful encampment beyond the original campsite to accommodateadditional participants. Veterans for Peace took a front line position as protesters were arrested.
From the beginning, protesters had worked tirelessly to maintain a positive working relationship with city officials. Actions by the Boston Police Department represent a sudden shift away from that dialogue.
“We have a purpose. It’s called the Constitution,” chanted the crowd as police removed campers from the park and trampled the veterans’ flags into the mud. The given reasonfor forcibly removing the protesters at 1:30am was a newly planted flower garden, but the police trampled these flowers in their zeal to curb public enthusiasm for Occupy Boston.
“The whole world is watching”repeated the protesters, with the same hope that has accompanied the Palestinian or Lebanese populations as they have been repelled by“the authorities,” awaiting some kind of angelic or global intervention.
“This is what democracy looks like”was the final word of the crowd as the protesters were arrested.
Official postings from the Occupy Boston newsfeed read:
“As Occupy Boston has grown, the initial area of the occupation has become overcrowded with tents and people. The original encampment is in Dewey Square Park, the southernmost end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the ribbon of parks created when Boston’s expressway was put underground by the Big Dig. In a spontaneous, autonomous action,a large number of occupiers moved into the next section of the Greenway… A subsequent proposal to officially ratify the expanded presence was adopted by consensus at a General Assembly held in the new space.”
“Boston police arrested 141 people during recent Occupy Boston demonstrations. The early morning arrests were made for trespassing and unlawful assembly. After almost 15 hours in custody, finally all of the peaceful demonstrators the Boston Police Department arrested have been released as of 6:00pm October 11th. Occupy Boston has many eye witness accounts and video evidence of police misconduct.”
Protesters have continued holding a daily “General Assembly” for making group decisions. Occupy Boston ratified a statement of solidarity with indigenous peoples at the Saturday October 8thGeneral Assembly, “recognizing that ‘we are guests upon stolen indigenous land.’” Boston thus became the first city in the broader“Occupation movement” to clearly declare its solidarity with indigenous peoples. This is important for all Americans who have been supporting freedom for Palestine.
“United American Indians of New England (UAINE) supports Occupy/Decolonize Boston and the Occupy/Decolonize Wall Street movement generally. We are deeply moved and encouraged that Occupy/Decolonize Boston, as one of its very first actions, issued a memorandum in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.
“We have been the victims of corporate greed for centuries. If you seek to reimagine a new society free of corporate greed, then we would ask that you learn all you can about the past that has carried us to this place.
“We fully support the right of the Occupy/Decolonize Boston encampment to expand from Dewey Square to other parks and open spaces in the city,without the necessity of permits and without fear of police reprisals.”
Occupy Boston has maintained that it will non-violently resist any attempt to end the protest before achieving the change they seek. The protesters have not yet united on any clear aim for their protest other than insisting on their right to continue to protest.
Those of us watching from the sidelines can only speculate as to what importance these protests might have on America’s present and future,or how this relates to struggles in other parts of the world. Without doubt, the emotional enthusiasm of these protesters is real, even raw. Even if we don’t quite understand their goals, a visit to one’s local protest site is sure to invigorate the apathetic. First generation Americans should take note of their personal responsibility to defend US democracy in action.
Shays Rebellion of 1786-87 in Western Massachusetts, was the first populist uprising after the American Revolution. Daniel Shays organized poor farmers from the Connecticut River Valley to shut down the courts that were sending them to debtors prison on behalf of big Boston banks. Many of the farmers were veterans who had trudged home from the Revolution “with not a single month’s pay”in their pockets. Shays and his followers have always been viewed as a small group of poor farmers and debtors who closed the courts as a protest of local civil authority.
To quote Howard Zinn: “The American colonists, having fought and won the war for independence from England, faced the question of what kind of government to establish. In 1786, three years after the treaty of peace was signed, there was a rebellion of farmers in western Massachusetts, led by Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolutionary war. The uprising was crushed, but it put a scare into those leaders who were to become our Founding Fathers.”
After Shays Rebellion, General Henry Knox warned his former commander, George Washington, about the rebels: “They see the weakness of government; they feel at once their own poverty, compared to the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former. Their creed is that the property of the U.S. has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore should be the common property of all.”
The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for 1787 was called to deal with this problem, to set up “big government,” to protect the interests of merchants, slave-holders, and landowners.
The conflict between the original purpose of the Constitution,which was to protect landowners, and the current interpretations protecting the rights of individuals, remains at a standstill. Meanwhile, “We the People” continue to voice general grievances.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. Karinfriedemann.blogspot.com