cross posted @politicsofselfishness.com
In the spring and summer of 1932, the throes of the Great Depression, approximately 17,000 World War I veterans, their families, and affiliated groups descended upon Washington, D.C. These protesters who were popularly named the Bonus Army.
Many of these war veterans had been continuously unemployed since the advent of the Great Depression. Earlier, in 1924, The World War Adjusted Compensation Act had awarded them bonuses in the form of service certificates that could not be redeemed before 1945. Each service certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment plus compound interest. The primary demand of the Bonus Army was that they be allowed to redeemed their service certificates in exchange for cash payments immediately.
On July 28, 193, the Attorney General, William D. Mitchell, ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shots were fired and two veterans were shot to death. In response, President Herbert Hoover ordered the army to clear the veterans' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded the infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.
At 1:00 A.M. in the morning of November 15, 2011, hundreds of New York City police descended upon Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan and ousted the Occupy Wall Street protestors who had been encamped there since September to protest the ever widening income inequality in the Unites States and the increasingly privileged treatment of this country's political and economic elite and their having benefited from the financial bailouts under the TARP program. Many members of this elite bear direct responsibility for the having destroyed the economy of the United States and, in the words of U..S. Senator Bernie Sanders, for having turned the U.S. economy into a "gigantic gambling casino." Approximately, 200 of the Occupy Wall Street protestors were arrested for disorderly conduct and for resisting arrest.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference in the morning, read a statement he had issued around 6 a.m. to justify the police action: "The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day...Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with...I have become increasingly concerned -- as had the park's owner, Brookfield Properties -- that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community." Later that same day, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman upheld the city's right to enforce "reasonable" rules to maintain safety and hygiene.
In the days and weeks prior to this police action, protestors at Occupy Movement sites in Denver, Salt Lake City, Oakland, Chicago and Portland, Oregon were forcibly removed by the police and their encampments dispersed.
Almost simultaneously, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and other trade publications reported that MF Global, headed by disgraced former chairman of Goldman Sachs and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, had apparently raided the accounts of some 33,000 customers and removed between $600 and $800 million from private client accounts. Much of this apparent misconduct escaped the scrutiny of putative regulator, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Mayor Bloomberg has yet to criticize Mr. Corzine's conduct or suggest that he and MF Global executives should be criminally prosecuted for plundering clients' accounts, notwithstanding the fact that many of those affected clients are New York City residents.
The disparity in treatment to date meted out against the Occupy Wall Street and similar Occupy protest movement across the United States - in contrast to influential persons such as Corzine and other financial miscreants who are able to insulate themselves from prosecution and to avail themselves of the protection of the bankruptcy laws while they move on to other highly privileged position - offers irrefutable evidence that our economic and political system is utterly broken. The shallow platitudes about the First Amendment protections accorded to the voices of the Occupy Movement protestors pale in comparison to the "commercial speech" protections that the U.S. Supreme Court has now accorded to the ruling elite.
Any pretense that the U.S. still aspires to be a democratic nation has been shattered right before our eyes. In response, citizens whine and whimper, but almost all refuse to exert themselves to take collective action to undo a political and economic system that benefits only a tiny minority. So long as the majority of Americans refuse to understand the lessons of history and continue to reward those politicians who consistently vote against their own economic interests, the country's downward trajectory will continue. A country that accepts growing economic inequality and the spread of squalor and human misery has condemned itself to ultimate extinction.