A wheelchair-bound Oaklander in the tear gas fog. That's hardcore.
It has been a strange couple of days. I woke up on Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. to finish some writing. It was still dark, but I heard several helicopters buzzing near my house. I checked Twitter and discovered several hundred police officers were clearing out the Occupy Oakland tent city a few miles away.
Well, I wasn’t expecting the morning’s eviction to turn into a national media s**t storm. By Tuesday evening, somewhere around 500 people were marching through downtown Oakland. Police told them to go home, but they didn’t. People started throwing things at police. Police launched tear gas. By the time things wound down at around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, police had fired several rounds of tear gas and beanbags at protesters, and there were various semi-confirmed reports of rubber bullets, flash grenades, and even a sound cannon.
Why do you care? Well, it turns out these protesters are not just deadbeats and drug addicts. There were several lawyers in the crowd, too. We spoke with a few of them, starting with Shahid Buttar. He is a Stanford Law School grad and the Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He spent Tuesday afternoon lecturing on privacy in a UC Berkeley journalism class, then spent the night getting tear gassed in downtown Oakland….
Three protesters on their way to Occupy Wall Street. Fellow New Yorkers, note the Duane Reade shopping bag.
Over the weekend, I realized that I needed some new white dress shirts. So I headed downtown to the Brooks Brothers at One Liberty Plaza here in Manhattan.
One Liberty Plaza — also the home of another white-shoe institution, the Cleary Gottlieb law firm — happens to be located across the street from Zuccotti Park, site of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Since I was going to be in the neighborhood, I decided to pay a visit to OWS, keeping an eye out for law-related angles to the event.
I brought my trusty camera and reporter’s notebook, so I could record my impressions and interview some of the protesters. What did I observe?
Reading the Wall Street Journal would probably be better than occupying the street itself.
No mob has ever changed the course of history. I’m sure we can all point out some famous mobs, but if you look beyond rabble, there is always a smart person or organization who knows how to use and manipulate the mob in order to make it an agent of change. French people organized in the streets a lot, and it took a Robespierre to turn them into a revolution. Angry poor white people have been ridiculously pissed off since the Civil Rights movement, and it took a Grover Norquist to turn that passion into an anti-tax platform that’s against the economic interest of the very mob that advocates it.
For the last two weeks, the Occupy Wall Street people have been a mob — a leaderless, unfocused, and harmless mob. They’re not even violent. And so they are (for some) easy to dismiss, ignore, and deride.
The lawyers in the audience should be thankful for that. Because if this collection of people could get their act together, they wouldn’t be occupying Wall Street. They’d be occupying K Street. They’d be occupying First Street. They’d be sitting in the lobby of the Lipstick Building or the Death Star asking questions of the people who help “the banks” get around any regulation the overmatched SEC can come up with.
The Occupy Wall Street people have no frame of reference; they’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know… look, they’re just out of their element….
A video has surfaced from this weekend’s somewhat ludicrous “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The protests themselves have been barely newsworthy. Hippies and kids mostly — the North Koreans have better organization when preparing a dance routine.
But one kid, one kid who is currently a student at George Washington University Law School, set the protest on fire with his plaintive, whiny, pathetic rantings, as he literally begged to be arrested.
You’re going to want to see this video. It’s a great example of how NOT to use your legal training to bring about meaningful change….
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