In the land of the ‘FREE’, Wall Street protesters campaigning against social injustice, inequality, unemployment, corporate powers, cost of living and hardship have constantly been arrested and evicted by authorities. There were cases of attacked by authorities with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, chemical agents , teargas, punching on the face or simply been beaten up. Some analysts describe the situation as “The Israelification of American Domestic Security” and “Militarising the police from Oakland to NYC”.
The outcome are, a 19 year old protestor with two-month pregnancy, Jennifer Fox, who was pepper sprayed during a protest march suffered a miscarriage five days later, she alleged that “police officers hit her twice in the stomach”; Not even a 84 year old elderly woman was spared by the police during a violence crackdown; One protestor by the name of “Khali” was reportedly arrested on misdemeanour charges on December 16th, and been locked-up since then because of a series of techniques the authorities used to keep him in detention. He is on medication prescribed by a psychiatrist, and was reportedly “has not been given his meds, nor received medical evaluation since his arrest.”
Nationwide Crackdown with Creative Excuses and Methodologies
The crackdown on protecters is on a nationwide scale and appear to be coordinated: from Denver to Portland, and Salt Lake City to Oakland. In a recent interview, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan reportedly admitted that she was “recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country” who according to her “had the same situation where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them.”
The excuses given by authorities to justify the arrest of protestors were creative. These include “wearing masks” by citing a 150 year old anti-mask law in New York; In one incident, police officers were been accused of deliberately led protestors from pedestrian walkway on to the roadway before “being penned in and arrested”.
As a series of measures to contain the influence and the spread of the protest movement, barricades have often been used to “effectively preventing the public from accessing” the area where protests were held; There were reports of protestors been banned from serving food; with authorities suddenly sweep in at 1:15 to dismantle camp that has become the “focal point for anti-Wall Street protests”; Such police tactic not only took place in New York, it happens across the country including California. The reality is, Wall Street protestors are not allowed to protest in front of Wall Street itself; that left many potential protestors arriving at the site “asking where the protests can be found.”
Every effort has been made by the authorities to disrupt the protest movement with protestors finding it hard to establish some kind of permanent base to expand and sustain the Occupy Movement. There are reports of hunger strikes by some protestors for up to 15 days with no food hoping to secure a place to protest; there are also frequent discussions amongst protestors on how to sustain the protest movement; apparently, none of these months of activities and personal sacrifices bear fruit.
With the sympathy of some local authorities, some protestors were allowed to maintain their protest camps for a number of months. However, such luck may come to an end. The protestors that pitched camp near the White House four months ago were reportedly running out of their luck with the National Park Service (NPS) indicted that, the protestors will face “no-camping clampdown 'very soon'.”
In January 2012, the AlterNet report reveals that vibrant groups like United Students against Sweatshops are back in the forefront to “spearhead a new movement for economic justice” hoping to reenergize the protest movement.
Hopeless Situation for Wall Street Protestors
The reality on the ground is that the Elites in Washington have been keeping themselves busy in smearing against each other with: Obama’s 2012 political strategy is to “Keep attacking unpopular Congress”; and GOP’s election battle plan is to “Use Obama’s own words against him”; The negativity against each other does not stop there but within the party itself as well; The rest of the time is being allocated for lobby groups funded by the rich. These include a gambling billionaire, oil industry and multinational mega lobbyist firm, just to name a few.
The behaviour of politicians is easy to understand: winning an election is very much about the ability to setup a sizeable network of public relation, we can call such network as the propaganda machine or an election warchest. That warchest can not be created from thin air; it required a lot of money as backing. A simple search on any search engine using the words “election warchest”, you will receive a series of headlines on how many millions of dollars have been raised by which politician or political party for the coming election.
This is again an issue closely associated to the richest 1%, the target of the Wall Street protests. These also explain why “the top one per cent of US society is enjoying a two-tiered system of justice and politics”; In December, 2011, a report by AlterNet revealed that when protestors “marched in midtown (New York City) to protest outside the venue for President Obama's $1,000-a-plate fundraiser … they were suddenly penned in by police, told they were in a 'frozen zone' and not permitted to leave until after the president departed.”
The power and influence of the 1% have obviously penetrated all level of the political system, with many retired politicians lining up to serve the 1% in order to get rich. The story of Rick Santorum is just an example: according to the Washington Post, he has become “millionaire since losing his U.S. Senate seat in 2006, earning much of it by working as a conservative commentator on Fox News and advising industry and lobby firms.” Even the bureaucrats working in the White House are eyeing the benefit of serving the 1%: another report by Washington Post reveals that “A senior White House legislative aide is leaving to become chief lobbyist for Washington’s leading airline industry group.”
In fact, there are no lack of examples of politicians or ex-politicians lobbying on behalf of big donors and corporations to use the tax payer money to subsidise or fund their business activities. The recent scandal about financial ties between Rick Perry and a HPV vaccine-maker is just one of the many examples; the following new headings reflecting the relationship between politicians, lobbyists and money politics:
· A G.O.P. Leader Tightly Bound to Lobbyists
· Goldman Sachs adds to its ranks of lobbyists
· G.O.P. Allies Drive Ad Spending Disparity
· New records show some lobbyists are top fundraisers for political candidates
· Lobbyist Charged With Hiding Political Donations
· The Republicans' Dark-Money-Moving Machine
· Who’s Paying the Super-Committee?
· Corporations Donate in Honor of Lawmakers to Win Favors: More in Money and Politics
The cruel reality is that money is virtually everything within the system. Even violent street gangs are able to exert influence with money. This January 2012, Chicago Magazine report tells all: “Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance.”
As a result, Nathan Schneider, an editor of ‘Waging Nonviolence’ rightly observed the situation with an article: “Re-Occupy: A Movement Seeks a Sanctuary” evaluating the difficulties the protest movement tried to seek a sanctuary in the ‘FREE’ world.
Why Wall Street Protesters will Admire China Protestors
There are also protests and strikes across China in 2011: 300,000 incidents, according to the China Daily. Contrary to the common claims by the mainstream Western media, the Chinese government and media are actually a lot more open about making public the statistics on the total number of protests and strikes across the country each year than many of the media in the West willing to do in their own country. I doubt that many Americans knew anything about the total number of strikes or Wall Street protests across the country in 2011.
Government Sympathetic towards Protestors
The final outcome of the recently widely reported Wukan village protest against corrupted local officers is an example demonstrating the people power in China and the willingness of the central government in Beijing to listen to the voices of the people: at the height of the Wukan protest, the UK Telegraph quoted a statement made by one of the protestor: “Please tell the government in Beijing to help us before they kill us all,” is an example of people faith towards the central government. The local officers in Wukan were later reportedly been investigated and charged with corruption and the leader of the protestors “becomes village's Communist Party Secretary.” As part of the on-going reform to protect the interest of villagers across 600,000 villages in China against corporate land-grab through corrupted local officers, the Central government has taken sweep action in drafting a “new amendment to China's Land Management Law” to cover “collectively-owned land (in rural areas)” within weeks after the incident was make known to the Beijing authority.
In fact, Wukan protest is not the only incident where authorities act positively in favour of protestors in China. Just to name a few more examples through a quick search on the Internet:
In April 2011, in response to truck drivers’ industry action due to rising fuel costs …, the Shanghai municipal government decided to lower “their standard fees and removing all non-standard fees” to alleviate the cost pressure to the truck drivers.
In August 2011, a protest in Dalian successfully resulted in the city authorities “ordering the closure of a chemical plant”;
Again in August 2011, the eastern city of Hangzhou offered its taxi drivers a subsidy of one yuan per trip to end a two-day strike as a temporary measure to alleviate the rising cost of “fuel prices and traffic congestion…” and then “plans to hold a public hearing with taxi drivers before finalising the new fares. The subsidy would end once the fares are hiked.” According to the local authority, the new measures are “aimed at raising the incomes of drivers and improving the operating environment.”
What many people did not notice is that, the number of strikes and protests across China has increased by 2.7 times between 2007 and 2011 was the direct outcome of the government policy in 2008 to implement a new Labour Contract Law: which “lowering the threshold for labour dispute arbitration with a range of monetary penalties, many of which are payable to individual employees as ‘compensation’ rather than the labour authorities as a fine.” Many Chinese TV’s Commentators at that time regarded such move as “intended to encourage sweatshop employees to take action against unscrupulous employers.”
A recent report by the China Daily reveals that: In 2011, “In about 24.7 percent of the (labor dispute) cases, the workers received a complete win,” and “Partial wins for both sides were recorded at 60.4 percent.”
Many of the industrial action involved foreign enterprises in China as well. The following news heading will allow us to understand the nature of many of the disputes:
· KFC agrees collective contracts in China
· Strike ends Japanese plant in north China
· 60% pay rise for gadget factory workers to curb suicides
· Sino Gold suspends work at Chinese mine due to protests (Only 20 protestors is enough to cause a suspension of mine work)
· Workers on strike in Japan wristwatch factory
The authors of a number of books I bought more than a year ago in China believe that market economy is good for energizing individual incentive to work hard and be creative; However, these Chinese economists also recognise that, market economy need to be regulated to protect the interest of the common people as corporations with profit as sole objective cannot be relied upon to meet all aspect of social needs.
The 2008 new Labour Contract Law is just one of the steps taken by the central government to improve the welfare of the workers across the country; In April 2011, at a national work conference on labour relations, vice-minister of human resources and social security, Yang Zhiming reveals that “The country will try to make sure employees earn wages that rise by 15% every year, so we can realize a target set out in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period, calling for such wages to be doubled (from what they were from 2006 to 2010)."
The following two reports by CNTV in 2010 will help to shed some light on the central government economic strategy in the area aiming at helping the workers in China achieving a better pay deal:
· Why distribution of China's wealth become a priority?
· Wage hikes boost costs, but help sales: “The wage hikes fit Beijing's economic strategy.”
Leadership is the key toward the welfare of a nation and the people. Political systems that are unable to place the most qualified and ethically correct people on the top jobs will cause suffering among the average people. Wall Street protest is just the beginning of a movement trying to express dissatisfaction and grievances against the short coming of the current system of government in the West; it will eventually become a mass movement like the forces of Arab Spring if the current flaws within the system hijacked by money politics through political donation and lobbying are allowed to go on without restraint. The current global financial crisis will speed up that process when mass poverty, unemployment, homelessness and suffering of the average people become a widespread phenomenon in the society.
This is not exclusively a American problem, it happens across many part of Europe including Australia with our ‘do-nothing’ political elites enjoying a 31% pay rise (an extra A$9,000 per month for the Prime Minister) and their staffers were only allowed a 3% increment with no overtime pay despite constantly having to work overtime. As a result of such inequalities, there were “1202 staff - from an annual pool of 1531 - resigned or had their employment terminated since 2009” - A 80% staff turnover rate in the last three years. The Wall Street protestors in Australia also suffer the same faith as their American counterpart with constant crackdown by the Australian authorities with brutal forces, and frequent nationwide arrests from Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane.
Perhaps, as a result of media propaganda, many people in the West habitually rejected the concept of socialism right away as evil. May be it is time for the Western elites to rethink about the concept of socialism in an objective manner.
· Chinese courts deny lobbyists to promote clean judicial system
· Pay to Play: What China's Rising Wages Mean for Investors
· China in new bid to balanced development
· Abandoning GDP fixation
· China to "basically eradicate poverty" in 10 years, Wen says
· Premier Wen says China to ensure people comfortable life
Human rights are more than just having the skeleton structure of a voting system. It is time for the West to stop finger pointing at others with all kind of negative exaggerated accusation based on partial and distorted information, and begin to look into the mirror for its own seriously flaws political system. Start reform now or bear the humanitarian consequences in the 21st century.
Written on 26 Jan 2012 by
Wei Ling Chua, Author of the book: Racism in Australia—The Causes, Incidents, Reasoning and Solutions
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