Late last week my alma mater, Messiah College, invited radical leftist Prof. Frances Fox Piven to speak. Because I was unhappy with my school extending such an invitation to someone so far out of the mainstream, I decided to go and see exactly what Piven would say, and how the school would handle the event.
Surprisingly the school handled the actual event well, by allowing an ideologically diverse crowd to attend, question, and challenge Piven’s speech. However, unsurprisingly, Piven had plenty of controversial things to say.
While her speech focused mainly on her vision of enfranchising as many people as possible, and removing obstacles to an American direct-democracy, she made plenty of diversions into even more radical areas. For instance, she talked about how racist the Tea Party is several different times, She even went so far as to say Tea Partiers are anxious because “they don’t like the idea of a black President.” Though she did back-track on that claim once pressed by the crowd, and eventually even labeled the Tea Party an “authentic” movement.
Piven also took a significant amount of time to praise the Occupy Wall Street protest, holding it up as what could, and should, be the next great American grassroots uprising, akin to the Civil Rights Movement. After describing the noble success of the Civil Rights Movement, Piven said, “Maybe there can be such a movement again,” in relation to Occupy Wall Street. She spared no praise for the occupiers, even labeling them “fervently democratic” and “nonviolent, sometimes despite provocations.”
Of course, Occupy Wall Street wasn’t the only radical leftist protest movement Piven talked up during her time on stage.
When questioned on her public support of the riots across Greece and England by a Messiah College student, Piven refused to back down. While insisting that she prefers nonviolence, Piven reaffirmed her commitment to seeing widespread rioting in the United States. According to her, mobs and riots are simply people “showing their numbers, their morals, and their righteousness.”
Piven even went on to say, “Riots are what poor people do when they get together.” While Piven mouths support for nonviolence, she also says breaking some windows isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, her only real problem with it stems from the bad publicity violent destruction of property creates. “People will say violence, violence, violence and ignore the violence which is being responded to by the crowd on the street. People are responding to the violence of losing their homes, to the violence of being jobless, to violence of being hungry. And in Greece, they really are hungry,” she said.
When it comes down to it, Piven’s overarching desire seems to be for the Occupy Wall Street crowd to become a national movement using the tactics of the Greek rioters to institute radical change. This is her call for the Left to rise up. This is her call to riot.
Editor’s note: Click here to read HUMAN EVENTS’ editorial response to Messiah College’s cancellation of an invite to a conservative speaker.