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SIMPSON: The 'Occupy' movement needs definition

Recently there have been what are called “Occupy” movements across the country. As they are publicized in the media, they seem to have become more popular. Some feel these protests are a way to empower minorities.

Recent stories about them have included confrontations with police who feel these protesters have overstayed their welcome and have endangered health and public safety.

Protesters insist they are exercising rights as American citizens and are protesting greed and inequality. Observers ask is this about the right to assemble and the right to free speech or is it about violations of laws and ordinances and permits and such? Is it puppeteers and their puppets?

It seems from media reports that the Occupy movement has many grievances, but is light on leaders and lacks an easily understood mission. Not being a protestor or a park camper, it isn't easy for an outsider to understand all of the group's objectives. Occupiers are venting their frustrations. They are unhappy with elected officials. They want economic justice. The system is broken and they want it fixed. They expect to be peaceful and lawful. Occupiers feel corporations exercise too much power over our leaders and believe the change they once voted for hasn't been forthcoming. The tent campers are disillusioned and resent not being able to find jobs. They have no way to pay off student loans and are saddled with debt right out of college.

As a matter of fact, there seem to be many kinds of people assembling in our parks. Homeless people, independents, political party members, environmentalists, people of different religious faiths.

We have in our parks people of all ages, genders, and races. We have unemployed and employed, middle class and poor, law-abiding citizens, idealists and those with shady backgrounds and questionable motives. Community activist group ACORN has participated in the Occupy movement, organizing guerilla protest events. ACORN has hired homeless people to join protesters. ACORN has had fund raisers to get money to have schools tested for deadly chemicals and then diverted funds to movement protests, we are told.

No wonder police and public officials have worried about noise, crime, sanitary conditions and public safety. Although they and some mayors have been tolerant, there comes a time when laws must be enforced in the public interest. Most parks have been or are being vacated for cleanup and repair.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain told protesters not to blame Wall Street or big banks if you don't have a job. Blame yourself.

Ron Paul feels the system is biased against the middle class. Newt Gingrich feels every American had a right to be angry.

Mitt Romney said the movement was dangerous and inciting class warfare but he understood how these protesters feel.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg felt protests were unproductive but he had sympathy for the complaints.

Actor Mark Ruffalo said the movement was peaceful resistance and this is what changes the world.

So regardless of who all these people are or what their mission is, they are clear about one thing. They want change and they want the system fixed and problems addressed.

They say they will continue marching and occupying our parks protesting greed and inequality. Their assembly is a clear sign of unrest and dissatisfaction with our present government officials. Occupiers are looking for a clear message to encompass needs of the homeless, jobless, those forced from homes by foreclosure. Their assembly has brought public discussion which in itself may be a positive. They do need a stronger message and it won't be achieved by standoff alone. Occupying public parks and screaming for causes, confronting police and breaking laws can backfire and cause loss of public sympathy.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.