Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy turns violent; will Charlotte clamp down?

Good morning, and welcome to O-pinion, the Observer’s home for opinion and debate on the issues of the day. I’m editorial page editor Taylor Batten, and I’ll be your host today, bringing you perspectives from the Observer’s editorial board and pundits from around the nation.

In the spotlight today: Dramatic new developments in the Occupy movement, both nationally and in Charlotte. What started out as an unorganized faction seems to be reaching a crucial juncture: Are the protests about to fizzle, turn violent or start winning momentum in public opinion?

A rare thing in recent American history happened in Oakland: Police used violence to disperse unarmed protesters. Iraq veteran Scott Olsen, one of the protesters, was critically injured by a police projectile and suffered a fractured skull. Hundreds of others were injured by police or sickened by tear gas. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued a statement expressing “deepest concern for all of those who were injured last night, and we are committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
In Atlanta, more than 50 protesters were arrested by police in riot gear after ignoring warnings to leave Woodruff Park, including a state senator.

The three dozen or so protesters in Charlotte haven’t been so notable, but Mecklenburg County commissioners are now talking about whether and how to clamp down on them. They’re doing so with an eye on the Democratic National Convention here next year.

Republican commissioner Bill James worries that the current ordinance governing protesters in county parks isn’t strong enough. He wants to ensure that police can arrest protesters violating the county ordinance and impose a harsh enough penalty to deter them.

“There will be a lot of folks willing to pay a ‘deferred’ citation for a night’s accommodation in a Mecklenburg greenway or park that they have 72 hours to resolve,” James wrote in an email this morning. “The existing ordinance is adequate for a non-convention environment but it is wholly inadequate for a national convention process with large masses of people unable to find housing whose intent is civil disobedience.”

Stay tuned to see how Mecklenburg commissioners handle this one. We believe James is right, to a point. The city and county need stiff enough policies and staffing to maintain order, while not violating protesters’ very real constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.

Ronald Reagan’s son Michael says the protesters should go home. Nicolas Kristof says crony capitalism is to blame.

Other news that has folks buzzing

A hugely important school board election is taking place in Mecklenburg County. With voters already going to the polls early, the Observer’s editorial board invited the 12 active candidates to make their case. The first six do so today; the other six will be posted here this afternoon.

In our letters to the editor, one reader explains why the middle class better hold on to its wallet with all this talk of a flat tax. Another writer says Ron Paul has the answers.

The NCAA meets today to talk about paying college athletes $2,000 a year on top of their scholarships. The (Raleigh) News & Observer says former UNC president Bill Friday was right when he warned years ago that college athletics were spiraling out of control.

Halah Touryalai says BofA CEO Brian Moynihan needs a better PR manager.

A good question

Finally, the Christian Science Monitor explores an interesting question: If Herman Cain is near the top of all the polls, why do so few people think he actually has a chance to win?

Photo:  24-year-old Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen lays on the ground bleeding from a head wound after being struck by a by a projectile during an Occupy Wall Street protest in Oakland, Calif. AP


Ghoul said...

Terrible tragedy that happened to Scott Olsen in Oakland. I would like to note that Oakland has been run by Democrats since 1977, and their last mayor was an avowed Socialist. Many of the protesters complained about the police state in Oakland, I say you get what you vote for.

Wiley Coyote said...

...ahhh..the good old days.

Where were Jerry Brown and linda Ronstadt during the melee?