Painfully, the nation has watched, during the last 48 hours, as police departments in Oakland, Atlanta and elsewhere used excessive force against thousands of peaceful demonstrators.
The disturbing scenes of women, children, seniors and even disabled people running under clouds of tear gas and being hit by flash grenades and rubber bullets are reminiscent of attacks in the middle of the last century against civil rights and antiwar demonstrators. The scenes are hard to stomach, also, because they look too much like what is happening today in the streets of Damascus, Syria.
The vicious crackdowns are an assault on democracy and they endanger the public safety. In Atlanta and Oakland both, as in cities elsewhere, many of the demonstrators who were attacked are people who have lost their homes, their jobs or the vital services they require just to keep going every day.
We applaud statements by the leadership of the AFL-CIO and by unions and their allies all over the country that have condemned these attacks. We urge the elected officials in the cities involved to call a halt to the violation of the democratic rights of their people.
Our best wishes and prayers go out to Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen who was critically injured in Oakland after being hit by a police projectile at the rally in that city on Oct. 25.
In addition to violating democratic rights, repression by city governments serves to take the focus off the main culprit here: the banks and big corporations of Wall Street.
When a mayor in Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago or elsewhere orders police to break up a peaceful demonstration the focus is shifted from people vs. Wall Street to people vs. the police.
Occupy Wall Street became powerful and continues to grow because it fights for the rights of hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes to live inside a warm comfortable house. Opponents of the movement would like nothing more than to reduce Occupy Wall Street to a fight between the police and several hundred who want to spend the night out on the streets.
If history is any guide, the "1 percent" will attempt to dampen this movement of the 99 percent. The methods of the 1 percent will include ordering police to break up peaceful demonstrators. The methods of the 1 percent include the sending-in of provocateurs to trigger violence.
The encouraging thing, however, is that Occupy Wall Street, against all the original, "official" expectations, has spread around the world and continues to grow.
It is not the Wall Street banks, but rather the 99 percent, that are too big to fail.
Photo: Iraq vet Scott Olsen critically injured by police at Occupy Oakland. Iraq Veterans Against the War.