Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Was Wrong

Last year, as the Occupy movement was morphing to a potentially transformative movement, a series of crackdowns across the country, all occurring within days or weeks of one another, effectively ended them.  Previous attempts to shut down Occupy, particularly at its home base in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, had failed as the protesters simply refused to bow to police pressure.  The string of police actions across the country, however, broke the back of the protests.

Many, including myself, believed that a coincidence this large could not be a coincidence.  While not believing that, as Amanda Marcotte writes in the article to which I'm about to link, Obama is a dictator, I did believe the events were strong circumstantial evidence of coordination from the federal level to end a movement that was critical of the Obama Administration from the Left.  Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from the right-wing group Judicial Watch, however, there is abundant evidence now available to the public that the reality is just the opposite.  Aforementioned Ms. Marcotte breaks it down for us:
 Judicial Watch, a right wing organization, issued a FOIA request to the DHS to find out if the Obama White House did direct these shut-downs, which Judicial Watch appears to favor. The request centered around Portland’s protests, which are particularly interesting to the right, because there were heavy accusations of criminal misbehavior.
What they discovered with this request what that the administration wasn’t keen on shutting down Occupy. . . .
Marcotte continues with some chastening words for those, like me, who were far too quick to lay blame without any evidence.
[P]art of the problem is that a lot of people on the left have inadvertently absorbed right wing narratives that posit that federal power is somehow always more oppressive than localized power . . .
You’d think that people who know their history around, say, the civil rights movement would understand that federal power is often a check on the ability of authoritarians to gain control on a state or local level, and then rain terror on people’s heads. But as Corey notes, this narrative that federal power is automatically more suspect is hard to dislodge, no matter how often we grasp that “states rights!” has its roots in the belief that states should have the power to legalize slavery, enforce segregation, or otherwise deprive people of basic human rights. So when local cops started banging heads, it’s not surprising that eyes drifted towards the White House, because it’s a nice, simple explanation that dispenses with the need for nuance. But it’s the wrong narrative. 
In my defense, Holder's Justice Department has not been very aggressive in pursuing, say, the folks who brought about the financial crisis; they haven't really done anything about the Guantanamo Blight apart from whine about Congressional action that restricts their freedom of action; Justice seems intent on cracking down on medical marijuana growers and distributors in states where such practices are legal.  I guess what I'm saying is that Holder's and Obama's approach to law enforcement hasn't been much different from previous President's, not a hearty history.

So, I was wrong.  The facts are far different than what I thought they were.  Absolved of responsibility for these actions, I think it only fair to make clear just how wrong I and others like me were.  That the Obama Administration made clear they were seeking ways to see the protests continue is laudable; that I believed them to be acting otherwise is a sign of my own frustration with the President, as well as how inescapable some narratives are, even for those who should know better.

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