Editor’s note: Yesterday, Matt Kibbe looked at the principles and beliefs that make the Tea Party what it is. Today, in the second installment of the three-part series, he looks at how Occupy Wall Street is very different.
As we left off yesterday, I recounted an astute analysis from Latoya, who told me before a Chicago television appearance that “the difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street is the difference between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Malcolm X said, ‘By any means necessary.’” While the Tea Party operates on foundation principles of individualism and respect for each other’s person and property, Occupy Wall Street operates on a much different plane.
In spite of the fact that OWS protests tend to be far smaller than Tea Party demonstrations, OWS has struggled to maintain civility, peaceful cooperation, or to even identify a unifying sense of purpose in its uprising. In and around Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, there are continuous reports of stealing, property damage both in the park and at small businesses surrounding it, and arrests often provoked by protestors wanting conflict with the police.
Stacey Tzortzatos, the owner of a Panini & Co. store near Zuccotti Park, says that she has “had to put a $200 lock on my bathroom because [OWS protestors] come in here and try to bathe. The sink fell down to the ground, cracked open, pulled the plumbing out of the wall and caused a flood. It’s a no-win situation.” Another nearby businessman has had similar problems: “They want to use the toilet, the phones, we give them free water and free ice,” says the frustrated restaurateur. “They sit here and don’t buy anything, but they recharge their phone batteries with our plugs, and I tell them, ‘Hey, if you guys are going to come, I need to do some business here. We are suffering, too!’ And then they start with their own words, going against you.”
In Washington, D.C., OWS activists inexplicably tried to force their way into the National Air and Space Museum. According to the Washington Post: “The demonstrators carried large signs and other items not allowed inside the museum… When a security guard told them they could not enter, demonstrators pushed the guard outside and up against a wall.” Pepper spray came out, the police were called, and one person was arrested.
In the United States, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists have been arrested. Things have gone far worse at OWS events across Europe. In Rome, for instance, one OWS protest quickly devolved into a full-on riot, with protestors smashing shop and bank windows and torching cars. “Clad in black with their faces covered,” the Associated Press reported, “protesters threw rocks, bottles and incendiary devices at banks and Rome police in riot gear. Some protesters had clubs, others had hammers. They destroyed bank ATMs, set trash bins on fire and assaulted at least two news crews from Sky Italia.”
Tactical non-violence is really just a practical outgrowth of the values that define the Tea Party ethos, and the lack of that ethos is where the radical left ultimately falls down. When you look for a coherent set of policy goals in the Occupy Wall Street crowd, you discover a very disparate set of demands coming from various factions of the “social justice” crowd.
To be sure, some of the protestors are real people with righteous anger at the crony capitalism and high unemployment that have defined the first three years of the Obama administration. More typical targets of OWS protestors are capitalism, “the top one percent,” and wealth creation in general. They want to redistribute the pie, not grow it. But the real question, in this world social justice is: By what standard? Whose claims are legitimate, and how might you reallocate the wealth of some to the benefit of those more deserving?
In Zuccotti Park, real life is in fact taking on the dystopian dimensions predicted by Ayn Rand and portrayed in Atlas Shrugged Part I. The group gathered there has created a “General Assembly” to come up with a set of demands and to allocate resources among competing protestor factions. These assembly gatherings have devolved into arguments over who gets what, and whose opinions matter most.
One seemingly inconsequential fight at Zuccotti Park was reminiscent of the Atlas Shrugged saga of the Twentieth Century Motor Company, where “to each according to their contribution” was replaced with “to each according to their need.” “The Huffington Post reported that OWS’s General Assembly was considering a request from the drumming group for $8,000 to purchase new instruments. “They say that because they’ve been there since Day 1, they deserve the funding more than anyone,” HuffPo reported. “‘We have worked for you! Appreciate us!’ the leader of the proposal shouted angrily to the GA in response to voices of dissent. After a long debate, the proposal was tabled. No funding for the drummers. After the meeting, one drummer cursed and yelled at GA members for their decision. He confronted another occupier and the two shouted obscenities back and forth; a physical fight nearly erupted but a peacemaker came between them.”
What ever happened to don’t hurt other people and don’t take their stuff?
Tomorrow, in the last of this three part series, Matt Kibbe pulls back the curtain on a new effort to establish a left-wing Tea Party being headed up by former “green jobs czar” Van Jones.