Have you noticed that there hasn’t been any more pepper spray lately down on Liberty Square in New York? If that gratuitous act of police brutality hadn’t been caught on videotape by an alert citizen journalist, the pepper-spray impunity might have continued. Such is the power of the public sphere.
What’s different about this 21st century protest movement is that the public square has expanded to be as big as the whole networked world.
Even if we’re not physically present,we’re watching, we care, and, as Medea Benjamin of Code Pink said yesterday on Democracy Now, “We are here to stay….It really doesn’t matter to us that our permit has run out. We feel like this is a public square, we are the public, and we are occupying this square, so we will stay here.”
Last night the Boston PD unceremoniously removed Occupy Boston protesters from a park that turned out not to be public. They manhandled Veterans for Peace representatives who were peacefully protesting under the banner of the American flag, and threw the protesters’ tents and belongings into a municipal garbage truck. Check out this report in the Harvard Crimson, or watch this video and see for yourself.
Bad move, Boston. Aren’t you the home of the original Tea Partiers, the ones we celebrate as patriotic resisters of British oppression? Do you really want to trample on American citizens’ right to the peaceful expression of dissent? How un-American is that??
There was no way the Boston Tea Partiers could have predicted that their action in the harbor would spark the American Revolution. All major watersheds in human history have unfolded in the same way, set off by the actions of a few dedicated individuals who are willing to stand up for their rights and their principles.
Why should our historical moment be any different? The truth is that every hundred protesters arrested will bring another thousand to the movement for change. Get used to it, Boston–and Chicago, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco….This movement is just getting going.