Who Wasted $13 Million on Occupy Protests?

According to an Associated Press article in the Chicago Tribune (November 23): “During the first two months of the nationwide Occupy protests, the movement that is demanding more out of the wealthiest Americans cost local taxpayers at least $13 million in police overtime and other municipal services. The heaviest financial burden has fallen on law enforcement agencies tasked with monitoring marches and evicting protesters from outdoor camps. And the steepest costs by far piled up in New York City and Oakland, California where police clashed with protesters on several occasions.”


At present, estimates from various cities across North America have highlighted various operational costs of policing Occupy movements in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. According to officials surveyed by the Associated Press, Occupy Wall Street has cost New York City a reported $7 million, Occupy Oakland $2.4 million, Occupy Portland at least $785,000. Those numbers continue to grow as cities deploy riot police to raid or destroy various Occupy encampments.


Some may argue that the nationwide Occupy movements waste taxpayer money by tying up police resources in attempts to assemble in public spaces. The argument is flawed. City administrations make the choice to spend money on policing Occupy protests.


The mass arrests at peaceful demonstrations prove how removed the government is from the needs of its people and how determined it is to silence or ignore the very people it has been created to protect. Taxpayers are all paying money into and for a corrupt system that is persecuting its own people and denying their first amendment rights. Theoretically, the 99 percent are paying, through taxes, the police and the mayor to represent us and our interests and betterment. What we support with our beliefs, words, and dollars should not be a shoeshine for the boot-heel crushing our throat.


Occupy Chicago has been a peaceful assemblage for over two months. Rallies, general assembly, workgroup meetings, and other democratic actions rarely require a police presence. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief McCarthy have chosen to assign one. The mayor’s office and the Chicago Police department chose to utilize taxpayer dollars to persecute those taxpayers  who are attempting to redesign the status quo.


In Chicago and across the nation, mayors and their subordinates chose to burn taxpayer dollars and to silence workers, students, mothers, children, and fathers who speak out in defense of themselves and others. The status quo spends our money to zip tie and cram us in the back of police cars. In the case of many cities, they smash us with truncheons, spray us with chemical agents, fire tear gas canisters into our bodies, break our bones, and torment us.


When police departments commit free speech violations and ignore the right to peaceably assemble sponsored by taxpayer dollars, in taxpayers’ names, with taxpayer complacency, all of the taxpaying population is victimized as well. Our collective dollars are funneled toward the abuse and the violence perpetrated against fellow, peaceful people. It’s apparent how deeply the system has cracked since resources for education, employment support, insurance support are instead earmarked and wastefully spent on silencing our voices. The political and justice system have been used brutally to repress this social movement whose goals include establishing direct dialogue, increasing political awareness, combating apathy, and reshaping the concept of community in a peaceful, supportive manner. The system that every one of us pays into is used against us to stop that communication and evolution from occurring.


Occupy activists—your sisters and brothers, daughters, fathers, mothers, and sons—are fighting for the majority of humans, would happily implement direct democracy, build a community based on respect and care for one another, and raise political consciousness through conversation and education. These actions do not cost taxpayers, members of the 99 percent, a penny.


Aaron Cynic is a zine writer and project organizer in Chicago, Illinois. His zines include Diatribe Zine and Vices Make My Life More Interesting. He is the founder of Diatribe Media and a staff member of Fall of Autumn. Natalie W. is a blogger who has contributed to Diatribe Media and other sites.