by Mumia Abu-Jamal
As the Occupy Wall Street movement gains steam and inspires similar protests worldwide, defenders of the so-called Tea Party have decried the Occupation activists as “law breakers,” “radicals” and even “un-American” – unlike themselves, of course.
One imagines that such objections, coming from Tea Partiers, are meant to contrast them not only from themselves, but from the original groups of Americans who made the term tea party history.
In this version, they were nice, law-abiding folk, engaged in a little, oh, patriotic disagreement. Suffice it to say, it didn’t exactly happen that way.
The late great historian, Howard Zinn, in his groundbreaking “A Peoples History of the United States: 1492-Present” (Perennial Classics: 2003), recounts the Boston Tea Party as a great event not only of rebellion, but law-breaking. Imagine the worth of crates of imported tea, broken into and tossed into the Boston harbor. The property of local merchants – destroyed. Why? Because of the taxes added on, which made Americans angry at such high prices for something they considered a staple. It was also a thumb in the eye of the British.
The British government responded to this provocation by passing Parliament’s Coercive Acts. They closed down Boston’s port, dissolved the local colonial government and brought in armed troops, virtually establishing martial law (Zinn 67).
Now – which contemporary group more closely resembles their American ancestors? The Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street?
And lest we miss the big lesson, women played a pivotal role in these protests as well. John Adams’ wife, Abigail, wrote of a “coffee party” led by nearly 100 women, who, angry at the high coffee prices at a Boston store, marched down to the warehouse and demanded the “stingy” merchant surrender his keys.
When he refused, Adams writes: “Upon which one of them seized him by his neck and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter, he delivered the keys when they tipped up the cart and discharged him; then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into the trunks and drove off. A large concourse of men stood amazed, silent spectators of the whole transaction” (Zinn 110).
“Law-breakers?” “Radicals?” “Un-American?” Well, they broke the law, certainly, for, during colonial days, English law ruled. Were they radicals? Probably.
Were they un-American? They destroyed private property. They reacted to the rich getting richer by looting their warehouses.
Sounds pretty American to me.
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
In Lower Manhattan’s Zucotti Park – renamed ‘Liberty Square’ by the demonstrators – the cast of thousands swell in rebellion against the betrayals by the banks, Wall Street’s relentless greed, the plague of joblessness and the craven servility of the political class – both Republicans and Democrats – to their moneyed masters.
In short, the central focus of their protest is capitalism – greed writ large, especially since the economic tumble of fall 2008.
Begun mostly by unemployed youth, it has drawn the presence and support of public workers, urban youth, students, teachers and a considerable number of gray hairs.
That’s because social discontent is so widespread that it is spreading like wildfire: Wall Street and then, days later, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and beyond. Demonstrations springing up like mushrooms after a storm in protest to the crony capitalism brought to us by the professional sellouts called politicians.
And, like vampires at a blood bank, politicians are descending on Wall Street to try to suck the life out of a movement that could threaten their monopoly on power. For politicians’ only interest in this protest is to exploit it, to weaken it, while they continue to serve the very bosses the protestors oppose. You can count the number of politicians who truly oppose Wall Street on one hand [one of them, John Avalos, holds second place in the race for San Francisco mayor – ed.] – and still have a few fingers left.
Perhaps America’s greatest white revolutionary, abolitionist John Brown, had little regard for politicians. He told his family: A professional politician you never could trust; for even if he had convictions, he was always ready to sacrifice his principles for his advantage.”
Think about that. Now think about every politician you know.
This is People’s Power, sparked in part by the mass protests in Cairo and Wisconsin. Other sparks were the Troy Davis injustice, the assault on several demonstrators by New York cops, the repression on the poor and working class by the political class, and discontent with the long, wasted years at mindless wars abroad.
This is people’s power.
May it remain so.
Sources: W. E. B. DuBois, “John Brown: A Biography.” Armonk,NY/London:M. E. Sharpe, 1997 p.83.; Robert Wells, “Passing Through to the Territory,” manuscript of a historical novel extending the life and times of Huck Finn, Jim – and John Brown! forthcoming in 2011-12, p.224.
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