Are 'Occupy' arrests gainful to the cause?


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My Facebook wall has been continually littered, my Twitter account won't shut up, and now I'm writing about it. The "Occupy" protests are everywhere.

It is a great idea to show the people of the world there are options other than giant banks, including community credit unions and small-town institutions. On the other hand, it is a bad idea to start yelling at employees who have no say in their corporation's policies. It makes people think the movement consists of a bunch of kids on spring break or anarchist wannabes.

In Des Moines, protesters sat outside the Statehouse. Fantastic, that gets the message out there: You are in Iowa, and you aren't going anywhere. But you can't camp on government property overnight, for lots of reasonable reasons. Like you will probably have to go to the bathroom, and the government doesn't want you to crap on its lawn, or you will probably want to eat, and it doesn't want you to burn the Statehouse down.

Free debate about important issues is what makes a democracy what it is supposed to be: a group of people brought together for the common goal of being heard.

But Occupy Wall Street just kind of sucks at it. The organization, the message, and the hypocritical Wall-Mart tents, all of which are brought to light when arrests are made, make me want to kneel down to Gandhi, to Martin Luther King, begging for their forgiveness.

In their day, they knew how to protest: sit-ins, silent marches, highly organized groups with a clear message springing up out of seemingly nowhere. They had the underground, they had rapid response, they resisted only when it made a point to the public.

The police asked the protesters to leave for valid reasons, and they didn't. The police aren't Wall Street; being arrested for squatting makes it look like being shoved into the back of a police car was the goal in the first place.

The arrests make the movement look like a bunch of college kids who feel like they need to jump on a bandwagon that is actually rolling, so they can put it on their résumés and tell their kids they fought for them. But really, it's just activist vacation, and we'll see if they start finding apartments when the snow starts falling.

— Benjamin Evans


The goal of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and for the most part, that of affiliated local factions, has been to "ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington," according to AdBusters.

The objectives, then, on an immediate and especially localized plane — particularly when concerning a movement of such drastic and ambitious scope — must be to gain publicity and accordingly, public momentum. And, let's be honest, what brings in more publicity than extreme volume of vocality, unrelenting boldness, and the perpetual acceleration of proactive measures?

The passionate and idealistic cries of proud and vocal activists are not going unnoticed. The legitimacy of the movement on a national and a local scale has already been asserted.

It would be a rash notion to suggest that no one's in jail is a bad thing. (I mean, please — in a college town such as ours, it's common knowledge that not everyone who ends up in jail, especially on a Friday night, is a criminal.) But it seems imperative to question the movement's ignorance of public-occupation policies (regardless of how ludicrous).

This is not by any means a criticism of the movement itself, which has gained exponentially positive momentum in the past weeks. Yet the reality does raise the question, are these "occupiers" being taken seriously?

We must not ignore that the mass perspective on charges of misconduct seems to find itself altered when judged in relation to a peaceful, political movement.

While the ultimate ramifications of arrests and prosecution on the part of the local government and police force may vary depending on the severity of the offense, the occurrence of executive response is an undeniable weapon in the hands of a movement attempting to gain prominence through means of a socio-journalistic medium.

Any stride of activism, however large or small, needs publicity. And to be honest, we can only write about a group of respectfully angry campers for so long.

— Samuel Cleary

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