When the multi-billionaire head of a media conglomerate raises the sword of Damocles over the heads of thousands of teachers in a public school system already starved for personnel and then sets loose known sadistic thugs to intimidate and abuse civilians who peacefully protest policies like that, he does not get to be treated as the authority on comity.
This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom the media mysteriously refer to as “Mike” (as though Pinochet were “Gus” or Putin “Vladdy”), talked to WOR host John Gambling and depicted the protestors wrapping up their second week of a Wall Street occupation that has inspired solidarity actions all over the world, as misguided and rude. Said Bloomberg, “People have a right to protest but we also have to make sure that people who don’t want to protest can go down the streets unmolested.”
That the Mayor is so ardent a defender of people’s right to “go down the streets unmolested” is surely news to the protestors who, less than a week ago, were subject to brutal violence at the hands of Bloomberg’s own band of bullies. Police, on that occasion, sprayed peaceful protestors in the face with pepper spray, threw them to the ground and assaulted them with elbows, dragged a woman around by the hair, jumped over barricades to grab and rough up young people, and, when all was said and done, laughed to themselves triumphantly.
Among the cops responsible for these offenses was Anthony Bologna, so notoriously abusive that he has garnered some little infamy among the activist left, not to mention the nickname “Tony Baloney.” The NYPD has known about Bologna’s violent tendencies for at least 4 years, since he was named in a 2007 lawsuit the NYCLU brought in response to police brutality against demonstrators at 2004’s Republican National Convention.Bologna is the cop who, without provocation, attacked those two defenseless young women, already corralled like dangerous beasts inside orange police netting, in the now-famous video.
Bloomberg has so far declined to defend people like those young women from treatment likeBologna’s, preferring instead to defend the Wall Street crowd from treatment they haven’t even received. In the dozens of hours I have spent at Liberty Plaza Park reporting on the Wall Street occupation, I have neither seen nor heard of a single incident of protestors (who are, by doctrine and extensive training, officially and dogmatically non-violent) molesting a single passerby. To the contrary, people on the street are greeted at a welcome center, invited in for free food and granted hours of discussion and explanation by campers at the square.
“The protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000 ayear and are struggling to make ends meet,” Bloomberg continued. “That’s the bottom line. Those are the people that work on Wall Street or on the finance sector.”
I cannot imagine what I would do with the amount of money Bloomberg has, and I cannot imagine having the type of money that would lead me to the assessment that Wall Street folks were “struggling to make ends meet.” In 2010, Wall Street paid out $20.8 billion in cash bonuses, the fifth-highest amount of record. The average cash bonus last year? $128,530. Poor guys. If this is “struggling to make ends meet,” Bloomberg is faced with the prospect of describing in even more dire terms the fate to which he has repeatedly threatened to subject public workers, whom he would like neither to be public nor workers.
“We always tend to blame the wrong people,” the Mayor added. “We blame the banks–they were part of this, but so was Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and Congress and you and me. Everybody wanted the boom times.” Well, I’ll agree with the Mayor that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and Congress are partly culpable and am certain the protesters would largely agree. I’ll even allow that his “me” shares responsibility, having fought his whole life for wealth consolidation at the very top that has resulted in widespread economic immiseration. The “you” is tricky; I don’t know much about Mr. Gambling. But the “everyone?” That’s where Bloomberg is dead wrong.
Far from having created the economic situation that pervades a desperateAmerica, the protestors on Wall Street are among the few groups that have been courageous enough to put their bodies on the line for justice and equality.
The only respect due to the Mayor on this point is disrespect. So, with all due respect, Mr. Mayor: shut up.