Today there was a big rally at Kiener plaza in support of the OccupySTL demonstration. The estimates I’ve read give the attendance at around 500* people. Union members and progressives of every stripe showed up. The Occupy folks have persisted, gained adherents and allies, and now nobody can ignore them. However, today’s response to the movement from various local media and our Missouri senators seems to offer a Rashomon moment, telling us more about the those characterizing the protest than about OccupySTL itself.
Senator Roy Blunt allowed as to how free speech and demonstrations are all just fine and dandy, but added that he didn’t “know that this is the best way to channel that energy in getting the economy going again.” Since Blunt is presumably touting the new GOP jobs plan – the one where they propose to keep on keeping on with the old GOP jobs plan, where we cut taxes for Wall Streeters and millionaires and let banks run wild and regulation free – this comes as no surprise.
Claire McCaskill, as might be expected, was more sympathetic to the message, but why does she try to draw a parallel between Eric Cantor, who called the Occupy folks a “mob,” and Nancy Pelosi, who, as I remember, was reasonably controlled on the topic of the Tea Party, even though some rampaging Partiers actually spat on a Democratic congressmen? That act alone might have merited an accusation of at least incipient mobbiness, but last year Pelosi even managed to claim that she shared ” some of the views of the Tea Partiers in terms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C.” Hardly an unbalanced and intolerant response. Is McCaskill just trying to take advantage of four years of GOP anti-Pelosi demogoguery to buy a little outstate good will?
As for the media at the rally, it strikes me that the variations in the way they reported on the police presence is fairly telling all by itself. For example, the rally described by the St. Louis Beacon sounds like a rousing, good-time-had-by all kind of event. They note that:
St. Louis police, many on bicycles, lined Friday’s march route, but no incidents were reported. Vans equipped to house any rowdy protesters lined a couple side streets, but went unused.
Contrast that with the KSDK (St. Louis channel 5) coverage which, after noting that the protest caused “big headaches for downtown drivers,” ended their piece with a note about police preparations:
St. Louis Metro Police are working a special detail for this event, and they’ve come prepared with their paddy wagons, and their plastic handcuffs.
So far, no arrests have been made.
Notice the slight difference in tone? The fnger-wagging is much more pronounced in this piece from KMOV ((ST. Louis channel 4):
There’s a heavy police presence downtown; streets are closed and there are at least 50 officers with nightsticks and zip-tie handcuffs.
Police say they’re frustrated that the officers have been pulled off the streets away from fighting crime to tame the protest.
The reporter adds that the “Occupy protests have been maligned for lacking focus and even for protesters being dirty and smelly from camping out.” Can any one say dirty hippies? After reading the KMOV coverage, folks who look at the photos made available at the St. Louis Business Journal, STLtoday, KMOX and FiredUP! might be surprised at the diverse, relatively clean-cut and good-natured looking crowd that turned out to support the message of the Occupy movement.
* Attendance numbers revised.
Addenda to the note above: St. Louis Beacon gives a 1000 person count – other sources say 500. I changed the number from 1000 to the lowest number because I remember how ridiculous, not to mention scurrilous, Tea Party efforts to inflate their rally attendance numbers seemed to me. Whether the number was really 500 or 1000, OccupySTL, pulled out plenty of good, motivated and respectful people – and for every person present, there were plenty like me who were there in spirit.