Occupy Protests Get Further Out of Hand


Last week when I wrote about Occupy Oakland's creepy turn, I was surprised at the number of people who assured me that the violence was the work of a tiny minority, and that most of the day had passed entirely peacefully as thousands of protesters descended on the Oakland port to blockade it.  Physically blocking people from entering or leaving their normal place of business is not what I normally think of as "peaceful".

I encountered a similar disconnect this weekend.  As you may have heard by now, this weekend, at the Americans for Prosperity dinner (a group with which the . . . sigh . . . Kochs are affiliated), Occupy DC decided that it would be a good idea to blockade the attendees into the DC convention center.  The video is pretty disturbing to me: 

What's more disturbing, however, is that my reading, and private conversations, have uncovered a number of people who think this is all right--and who consider the real outrage to be the rumor (now squashed, I believe) that an old lady was knocked down by Occupy DC protesters*.

I am shocked that anyone would make this argument.  This is outrageous.  I don't know any people on the left who would think that this behavior were "non-violent" if it were, say, aimed at abortion clinics.  It's bad enough that many of the occupiers seem to put as little thought as possible into the space they share with many fellow citizens.  A sizeable number of them now seem to have decided that physical intimidation is a legitimate tactic with which to express their rage and frustration.

I have no doubt that support for these tactics is a minority sentiment on the left.  But where are the condemnations that our left-wing commentariat were so eagerly demanding from the right a year ago every time Michelle Bachmann or another tea party figure said something stupid?

No, I'm not interested in more Tu Quoque Kabuki.  Rather, I think there is actually something dangerous afoot at some of these protests--something that is manifesting itself not in a worrisome undertone or overheated rhetoric, but in the actual use of force against fellow citizens.  It is, of course, very nice that they haven't hurt anybody yet (as far as I'm aware, anyway), but that's no excuse for using physical force--and their own fear of hurting you--to blockade things run by people you don't like.  Moreover, the more you up the physical confrontation, the higher the chance that someone will get hurt.

It seems to me that those on the left who oppose these tactics should be voicing their opposition loudly.  These kinds of happenings are very bad for the movement.  They're also, um, wrong.  Yes, the cops have made mistakes, and I don't understand why the drivers of those cars aren't up on charges.  But that's no excuse for averredly peaceful protesters to start acting like a mob.

* In fact, there was a real outrage: another luxury car owner ran his automobile at protesters who were blocking the street.  But according to the police, witnesses, apparently including cops, it say the protesters stepped in front of the car right before they were hit.  Protesters dispute this.  I don't know which is right, so I propose that Occupy protesters stop attempting to "take the streets" and drivers refrain from hitting them with their cars.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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