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Report from the Occupy Frontlines

Deadline in Bangor, Maine

by LAWRENCE REICHARD

Coast to coast, from Oakland to Atlanta, cops are busting up Occupations.  The right is fighting back against what might be the most vibrant, vital, dynamic and fast-growing movement for social change this country has seen since at least the movement against the U.S. wars on Central America of the 1980s.

Enter Occupation Bangor, which starts tomorrow, Saturday, October 29.  With more than 900 Occupations nationwide and more than 2,200 worldwide, Occupation Bangor may be unique in that the City of Bangor has pre-emptively,announced it intends to bust up and clear out Occupy Bangor when the designated park, Peirce (sic) Park, officially closes at 10 p.m. Saturday night.

In fact, in what might well prove a strategic blunder, the city issued a press release to this effect. This essentially guarantees near blanket coverage at 10 p.m. Saturday in Peirce Park by a local media that appears quite interested in this story.  It’s amateur hour at City Hall.

In the second of two meetings between city officials and the Occupy Bangor legal team, the city said it intends to enforce a ban on park camping and nighttime park presence much as it would any city ordinance.  It cited the example of a car parked illegally.  City officials went on to say that while they don’t necessarily follow the will of the City Council in enforcing ordinances that are on the books, they did consult with the City Council, and according to these officials not one councilor rose to defend Occupy Bangor.  This has yet to be verified by Occupy Bangor, but it seems unlikely city officials would lie on this particular point.

But if city officials would treat an “illegal” encampment in the same fashion they would a car parked illegally, is this to say that they consult the city council and issue a press release every time they intend to ticket a wayward automobile?

It will be interesting to see what happens Saturday night.  It is often said that as Maine goes, so goes the rest of the country, at least in presidential elections.  Heart of America and relatively small town Bangor held its own in the fight against the first Gulf War and in the early going of the fight against George Bush’s Iraq War; and the nearby University of Maine performed valiantly in the anti-apartheid and anti-Vietnam War movements.  But greater Bangor is not exactly a hotbed of radicalism.  No ROTC building has ever been laid waste in this neck of the woods.  But inhabitants of these great north woods can be fiercely independent, and the wanton trampling of First Amendment free speech rights might just raise the hair on the back of their necks.

Meanwhile where is Barack Obama in the midst of an Occupation crackdown that seems to be gathering steam in the land?  Where is the man who said he understood the frustrations of Occupiers?  He is of course nowhere to be found.  As always with Barack Obama, talk is cheap, very cheap.

Reportedly Geithner has also expressed sympathy for the Occupiers.  This from the man who did as much as any other to destroy the economy, and the homes, dreams and life savings of millions by turning a blind eye to the gross excesses of his bankster and riverboat gambler buddies on Wall Street.

In 1933, early on in FDR’s presidency, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited a second Bonus Army encampment, in Anacostia Flats, Washington, D.C.  Before that, then-president Herbert Hoover, watched from a White House window while Douglas McArthur busted up the first such encampment and torched the possessions of the Bonus Army’s hapless troops.  An estimated 20 percent of the 20,000 Anacostia Bonus Army was disabled vets, and two veterans were killed in Hoover’s and McArthur’s vicious attack.  According to Disabled American Veterans, a veteran told the Washington Post, “Hoover sent the army, Roosevelt sent his wife.”

FDR then beat Hoover in a landslide and the Hoover administration went down in the flames of its own making.

Occupations, at least so far, are by and large not the Bonus Army encampments of the poor, at least not in this country, but where is Barack Obama while Occupations are being violently busted up?  Where is Michelle?  Talk is cheap, and like Anacostia, there’s an Occupation practically right outside the fine halls and heavy fortifications of the White House.

But perhaps President Obama is too busy scrambling to reach his reported goal of a billion-dollar re-election war chest.  George Bush laid claim to the White House with the backing of less than half the citizenry.  Maybe Obama can reclaim it with 1%.

Lawrence Reichard lives in Bangor and has been involved in Occupy Bangor.  He wrote this as an individual and a journalist, not as a representative of Occupy Bangor.  He can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.