Commentary: ‘Occupy Wall Street’ harassed while bankers go free
Protesters had been swarming Wall Street and Lower Manhattan for a week.There were at least six arrests the first day Occupy Wall Street camped out and chanted near the New York Stock Exchange. There were dozens more by the weekend.
By Saturday, the hundreds of protesters appeared to have lit a fuse with New York City police. There were rough arrests that bordered on brutality. Pepper spray brought tears and pain. Watch YouTube video of female protesters penned and pepper sprayed .
And to a nation’s shock, not one of the police targets was a banker.
So much for law and order.
If you want to know how a nation supposedly by and for the people has become uprooted, one only needs to see how common young people, who are suffering so badly in this recession, were humiliated further by trying to exercise their given right to peacefully protest.
If this is justice, I’d rather break the law.
The bankers who brought us this mess not only walk free, they drive free in Bentleys paid for by money looted through toxic mortgages, trading debacles and derivative madness. Regulators, prosecutors and an administration patsy to big finance do nothing except hand out $1.3 trillion in bailout cash and guarantees.
Consider how sick this narrative has become. A counter protest was planned in which bankers and traders said they would douse the “dirty hippies” of Occupy Wall Street with champagne, to give them “a bath.” Watch YouTube video of police arresting protesters .
These are the people police are protecting.
The ones outraged by greed run amok, reckless behavior and fraud are getting wrestled to the pavement and arrested.
Now, let’s not pretend that every protester was well behaved last week. Let’s not suggest these are librarians and clergy on the march (though there were some of both kinds in the ranks). There was cursing. There was defiance. Some provoked the police.
But ask yourself how you might act if you were in school or fresh out of it or young and unemployed. What future has Wall Street, the heart and brain of our capitalist country, promised you? How does it feel to be the sons, daughters and grand kids of a “me” generation that's run up the debt and run down the economy?
Unemployment is between 13% and 25% for people under 25. Student loans are defaulting at about 15% at a time when more young people have no alternative but to borrow to pay for school.
Meanwhile, Wall Street bonuses continue to be paid at close to all-time highs. Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +3.50% , took home $13.2 million last year, including a $3.2 million raise.
Brian Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America Corp. BAC +1.97% , got $10 million in stock and salary. Thomas Montag, Moynihan’s lieutenant actually got more, $14.3 million. Their bank has lost $14 billion during the last year. Shareholders — that’s you moms and pops, widows and orphans with 401(k)s — are holding the bag.
Enter the New York City police, who were just lauded for their bravery on 9/11 On that day they rushed in to save anyone and everyone, putting their own lives at risk.
We must have lost a lot of “heroes” that day because what’s left of the NYPD are out there pummeling the young and disenfranchised. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, a front-runner for mayor in 2013, has, by blessing this behavior, ingratiated himself to the moneyed crowd that doesn’t want a way of life disrupted by dirty hippie riffraff.
Just watch the donations roll in.
OK, maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Perhaps police thought that the black guy they shoved was Stan O’Neal, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch. Maybe they thought they had penned Erin Callan, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers, when they shot her eyes full of pepper spray.
That kid with the bandana who was thrown to the ground? Could have been Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM +2.28% or Joe Cassano, who ran American International Group Inc.’s AIG +2.43% cowboy outfit, the financial products unit, that caused $60 billion in losses.
Maybe those protesters were planning a new mortgage-backed security doomed to fail.
This could all be just one big mistake.
After all, this country wasn’t founded to serve a bunch of elitists. Government wasn’t intended to be bought and paid for by financial interests. Our nation’s economy wasn’t supposed to be built on fraud and abuse. If that came to pass, you’d expect people to be angry. You’d expect people to get roughed up. You’d expect a revolution.
And you’d expect the system would fight like hell to keep it down.
David Weidner covers Wall Street for MarketWatch.