Our December 10 article about democracy, “income inequality”, and political influences was, in part, motivated by a number of comments by Occupy Lincoln (OL) members on our site. We decided to address those comments in articles, because we believed they’d raised some issues worth writing about.
Since we had already planned to point out problems we’ve discovered in City of Lincoln Attorney Rod Confer’s explanations for City policy, we decided to address OL members’ comments about the legality of the group’s encampment at the same time. (Much of Rod Confer’s explanation was heard on Coby Mach’s October 20 Drive Time Lincoln show – a full transcript of which we published with links to the audio file).
City officials’ credibility is now in question, due to their actions, inaction, and the incomprehensible justifications. This damage is entirely self-inflicted and necessarily has resulted in persisting questions regarding past decisions and the precedents that have been set for the future.
It is difficult to analyze present policy other than as follows: Rather than City officials and the Lincoln Police Department acting in the traditional and duly constituted role of equal protector of all citizens’ rights, the message now being conveyed is that the rule of law in Lincoln will be applied in a wholly unpredictable and discretionary manner. Private property may or may not be protected[1. Here I reference what occurred when the Occupy group staged a "sit in" in the downtown Lincoln Wells Fargo location. According to the minute by minute reports from the scene, there seemed to be reluctance on the part of LPD to act. Individual OL members who participated were simply escorted off the premises, perhaps ticketed, we're not clear, but then released blocks away. In addition, OL members claim that one LPD officer communicated support for their cause. We're skeptical about the message this sent, especially considering the following: Lincoln Journal Star article reported on Monday that OL members put on a puppet show in US Bank, who called the police, and attempted to do the same at Wells Fargo, where they were told to leave. LJS reported that LPD are going to review the US Bank security tapes to determine if any laws were broken. ] and public property will be available to certain groups and individuals under discretionary and limiting terms. Conversely, public property might be open for use by other groups and individuals in ways that violate long-standing laws and policies. All of these applications of law are being and will be based on some nebulous, mysterious, and ultimately, highly suspect paradigm.
I stress again here that most of the material we’ve published about OL has been focused on the actions of City officials. Why? Because City officials formulate policy, implement those policies in the form of City ordinances and regulations, and then enforce them as law. When in doubt, Lincoln’s citizens must look to City government to answer their questions and concerns about what is — and what is not — legal and then conform their behavior to their understanding of the law. The City has failed to live up to that responsibility with respect to the OL group.
As a result, members of Occupy Lincoln have convinced themselves of a number of fallacies…
- The Occupy movement is speaking for “the 99%”, and by extension, therefore, Occupy Lincoln is speaking for “the 99%”.
- Those opposed to the Occupy movement are part of “the 1%”.
- The Occupy movement people are the first to discover the Constitution and the first ten amendments to the document (a.k.a “The Bill of Rights”), and are just plain smarter than the rest of us in figuring out how to avail themselves of the rights contained therein.
- Camping is speech which cannot be in any way regulated or prohibited by government under the First Amendment and, so, Occupy Lincoln has “a right”, legally, to their encampment on the Centennial Mall. Tents are equivalent to people and are, therefore, equivalent to the right to free speech.
- The Mall is not a City Park, it’s…some kind of public space.
- Occupy Lincoln’s presence on the Mall is not in any way problematic to the City and the group is obeying all ordinances, but even when one is violated here or there, that is an individual’s fault, not the responsibility of the group.
- Critics of City officials’ handling of the whole affair, including GiN and Julie Schmit-Albin, are purely politically motivated and are just trying to get the group evicted from the Centennial Mall.
Likely, there are more fallacies, but I will limit myself to those which I’ve identified in the above list. Even then, it will be necessary to devote more than one article in order to cover them all. I’m taking up the first three of the seven listed in the following remarks and saving the remainder for another day and at least one more, perhaps two, articles. I’m spending so much time on this whole subject because I want to ensure that OL members will not continue to cling to the fallacies listed due to any failure on GiN’s part to be absolutely clear. Apparently, our prior articulations have failed to penetrate.
A secondary purpose is to make something very clear to readers who generally appreciate what we do here – particularly those readers who are skeptical about this subject’s importance. We’ve learned much about how our City government is being run and that insight is more important than specific recent events.
1. Occupy Lincoln is not speaking for the 99% – the ENTIRE Occupy movement doesn’t even represent 1% of the U.S. population.
First, let’s just deal with facts.
By the most generous constructions available, participation in the Occupy movement by Americans is less than 1% of the population.
One of our commenters, “JrOLOM” stated that he supports “the more than 1600 Occupy groups”. In the spirit of generosity, I’ll use a larger figure cited in a November 17, 2011, article in the New York Daily News, which reported a total of 2,427 Occupy locations. Although the article doesn’t specify whether that’s in the United States, or worldwide, let’s, for the sake of argument assume it’s in the U.S.
Using the more generous figure of 2,427, let’s presume participant number of 10,000 per location, which quite amply accounts for any large turnouts, whether on-going or one-time, in any larger cities such as New York.
So using those numbers, the total number of Occupy participants, nationwide would be…
2,427 x 10,000 = 2,427,000
According to the 2010 Census[2. Use of the official 2010 Census population figure is also theoretically "generous" if the estimated population increase numbers are in any way correct. According to the Census Bureau's "population clock", projected total U.S. population as of December 13, 2011, at midnight, was over 312,000,000. The official population figure was reported in April of 2010.], the total population of the U.S. is:
Percentage of the population participating in the Occupy movement nationwide?
And no, that’s not a failure to appropriately format or convert a decimal number to percentage. That IS the percentage[3. Percentage calculated by taking the "presumed number of protestors nationwide" as selected - 2,247,000 and dividing it by total U.S. population - 308,745,538. Equation: 2,427,000/308,745,538=.00786084234843258. Format to percentage: .00786084234843258/100=0.786084234843258%, round to nearest tenth=0.8%. I used the handy little calculator to double check my "old school" math, found HERE.].
Again, the participation figure I selected was generous. According to one statistical analysis, incredibly so; estimated participation in Occupy protests nationwide was 70,000 – 100,000. I won’t do the calculations based on those figures, because, is it even necessary?
What about Occupy Lincoln specifically? Does that group speak for 99% of Lincolnites?
No, actually; Occupy Lincoln, again, by the most generous assessments, does not represent 99% of even the City’s population.
According to the 2010 Census, Lincoln’s population is 258,379.
The most generous figures reported for Saturday march participation has been in the hundreds, according to the previously cited analysis, 475 on October 15. In the event that figure is way off, we’ll round up to 1,000.
Percentage of Lincoln’s population participating in the Occupy Lincoln group, at its peak?
And no, again, that’s not a failure to appropriately format or convert a decimal number to percentage. That IS the percentage[4. Percentage calculated by taking the "presumed number of protestors in Lincoln" as selected - 1,000 and dividing it by total Lincoln population - 258,379. Equation: 1,000/258,379=0.00387028357567759. Format to percentage: 0.00387028357567759/100=0.387028357567759%, round to nearest tenth=0.8%. I used the handy little calculator to double check my "old school" math, found HERE.].
So, on a factual basis alone, Occupy, either nationwide or in Lincoln, doesn’t represent anything remotely resembling “the 99%”. But OL’s “JrOLOM”, goes even further:
“The 99% are fighting for more citizen control over our future as Americans.“
In addition to the blatant factual inaccuracy of claiming to represent 99% of the people, it’s arrogant and presumptuous. It’s not even credible to claim that “the 99%” are doing anything. How could such a small percentage of the population claim to know the minds of so many other people?
Even when these presumptions are well intended, as in OL member, Betty’s comment, below, it is condescending. In this case, this too, is also inaccurate (more on that later).
“The occupiers are there standing up for your rights as well even if you don’t see it now.” – Betty
I have a recommendation. Try doing what other groups do who are trying to gain a following; organize events, meetings, whatever, state what you stand for, invite people to join you. See what happens. When you speak about who you represent, avoid an overreach. It diminishes your credibility.
2. Those opposed to the Occupy movement may be opposed simply because they think the Occupy movement is wrong – wrong for any number of reasons.
- Considering that “the 1%” is such a very small number of the population, the statistical probability that an opponent is even “part of the 1%” is unlikely.
- People may not agree with your assessment of the country’s ills. They may think there are different reasons for our problems than you’ve stated.
- People may agree with your assessment of the country’s ills, they may just not like your tactics (i.e. public protesting, marching, sign-waving, camping, performing a play in a bank, etc.).
- People may agree with your assessment of the country’s ills, they may disagree with you on your proposed solutions (i.e. income redistribution, prohibiting certain campaign donations).
- People may not agree with your assessment of the country’s ills, they may not like your tactics, and they may not like your proposed solutions.
- People may not have a clue that the country has any ills and think you’re crazy.
- People may not like who you have representing your group in the media, online, or who you have standing by the tents when they walk by or walk up to talk
Classifying everyone who disagrees with you as part of the class you have labeled as “the problem” is not likely to win them over.
People who disagree with you are not necessarily ignoramuses whom you must educate.
“Once the 99% understand their power, we can work together to change this country for the better.” – JrOLOM
Occupy might even <gasp> be wrong.
3. There are people who do not agree with the Occupy movement who have been aware of the Constitution and the natural rights articulated in that document’s first ten amendments for some time.
There are people who know about Constitutional rights who believe the Occupy movement’s tactics and strategies are actually a perversion of the law, because others’ rights have not been respected and all citizens are now being imposed upon.
GiN, for instance, is a group that was founded in March of 2009. Our original Mission Statement, only slightly “tweaked” since, mentioned the Constitution, right off the bat. Our leadership embraces the original meaning of the Constitution and the natural conclusions that follow; government’s number one job is to protect people’s God-given rights. But they need to be protected equally.
As I stated at the beginning of an article on October 26:
“Whatever disagreements I have with the Occupy Lincoln group, I do agree, of course; they have a fundamental right to speak their minds. Because I know they have that right and, also, the right to peaceably assemble, I was, if anything, ambivalent about their Saturday, October 15, event on the Mall and at the State Capitol. It didn’t even occur to me that the group landed on downtown Lincoln that day with plans for a contingent to literally occupy the Centennial Mall.“
In other words, it is actually logically and philosophically consistent to support Occupy groups’ God-given rights to speech and assembly, regardless of agreement or disagreement on the political philosophy, AND ALSO strenuously disagree with the strategy and tactics that involve the seizure and indefinite occupation of public property.
It’s also important to point out a key difference in political philosophy. There are many other Americans who understand their rights as articulated by our Constitution who acknowledge violations of them in the way laws are written and/or carried out. What sets these Americans apart from the rapacious Occupy movement people is that they subscribe to a very important concept:
People who disagree with a law, even if they believe it is a violation of their rights, still obey such laws. Why? Because to do otherwise is a step down the road to mob rule.
The U.S. is a Constitutional republic, which is a nation of laws, not of men. If there are laws on the books which we believe constitute the perpetration of a grievance – a violation of our rights – we should use the duly constituted processes that are available. Those include bringing the matter to the attention of the elected officials who make and execute laws, or, if in more pressing circumstances, seeking relief through the courts, and beyond that, through the electoral process. Civil disobedience should always be the last resort.
Occupy groups have done none of the things noted above; they addressed bureaucrats, and according to many reports, cited the prospect for legal action if their plans were not accommodated. These actions were not undertaken for the purpose of broadly addressing grievances that affected all citizens, they were done simply to achieve their own goals – which was to build indefinite encampments on public property.
In justifying their actions, spokesmen for Occupy groups, including a spokesman in Lincoln, make such statements as the following, employing very contorted logic:
“Fortunately, Americans in civil service tend to value our constitutional right to openly protest, so the notion that they would unlawfully do anything against the folks on Centennial Mall, should cause us all to pause and think. The laws have been carefully researched and are understood.“
Considering what is known about JrOLOM / JrOLM’s prior statements on this subject as a whole (more of them to come), we are, at best skeptical that such statements are genuine. Is it truly that “Americans in civil service…value…constitutional rights”, or is it they didn’t want legal trouble? We will return to this point in #7.
Another OL member, a fellow using the handle “Sir Reverence” made many statements which we respect and appreciate. Sir Reverence attempted to be reasonable, thoughtful, and, we believe is sincere and genuine in his efforts to dialogue with us, such as in the following:
“To a certain extent, members of Occupy Lincoln have been surprised with how well we have been treated by the city and by police. The asymmetrical enforcement of the law as regards Ms. Schmit-Albin’s group and others is concerning to us as well, and it also reflects poorly on us by making it appear we are receiving favoratism from the city.“
Sadly, some participants in the Occupy group, either past or present, want to do only what is legal and right, but we believe some of them have been misled by local politicos in their own midst and by City officials, both of whom have their own agendas — agendas that don’t necessarily square with what the majority of OL members consider the group’s ultimate goal(s). The members of Occupy who genuinely want all citizens’ rights protected have yet to realize that what they are doing necessarily requires a subversion of existing laws.
It’s time for the Occupiers to ask themselves a question:
If government’s primary purpose is to protect God-given rights, at what point does the exercise of your rights infringe upon others and what is your obligation regarding that infringement – even if public officials allow it?
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Government “Demotivational” poster concept inspired by design HERE
Lincoln City-County Building photo by Tarah Dawdy
Corruption “Demotivational” poster concept inspired by design HERE
Occupy Lincoln photo through the GiN Tip Jar
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