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You Can't Evict an Idea

The “occupy” camps were just a tactic. The 99% is a growing movement whose time has come.

In the middle of the night, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hundreds of police in full riot gear crept up on peacefully sleeping American citizens early Tuesday morning and evicted them from Occupy Wall Street, reportedly using pepper spray and aggressive force.

You can physically push protesters off public land but there’s no way the powers that be can push out the idea taking hold in America’s conscience --- that it is unacceptable for our economy to systematically benefit the rich while making it harder and harder for hardworking Americans to survive. 

Think what you will about the protests. Maybe they weren’t your cup of tea. But do know that our forefathers who destroyed private property by dumping crates of tea into the Boston Harbor were not initially praised as heroes but attacked as criminals. But we look back with deep gratitude that they stood up to the fundamental inequity and injustice of the British monarchy and its stranglehold over the colonies. Without their bold action, we would not be a nation.

Such protests often look prettier with the distance of history. Standing up to the status quo is, by definition, counter-cultural in the moment -- even if those doing the standing up have the support of the majority of Americans. 

Senior citizens struggling to get by on eroding Social Security benefits and laid off construction workers and public teachers may not have all been sleeping under tarps in lower Manhattan, but millions were cheering the protesters on. 

Even many among the 1%, many who work on Wall Street, signaled their support. After all, you’d have to be blind or willfully ignorant to think that our current economy is working as it should for working people. 

Over the last generation, worker productivity has gone up as have corporate profits and CEO pay packages -- but the wages for ordinary working folks, the people doing the work, have fallen. That’s not capitalism. That’s corruption.

To be clear, officials argued the eviction was necessary due to an “increasing health and fire safety hazard” in Zuccotti Park, where the protesters were encamped. 

But such concerns were already being addressed. A volunteer team of doctors descended on the camp last week to give flu shots and prevent other infections from spreading and protesters had set up their own internal monitoring systems to prevent sexual assault and other violence. 

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that there’s been a recent spate of rape and attempted rape cases across New York City in the last several months to which many argue the police response has been lax at best, which casts questions on the claim the police merely wanted to help the protesters. 

More significantly, the last time officials used the argument of needing to clean the park as a pretense for eviction, the protesters thoroughly scrubbed the place themselves. It’s clear the only thing Bloomberg really wants to protect is his political power and the power of his economic cohort.

Ironically, it’s possible the police did the 99% movement a favor and the eviction is a blessing in disguise. It’s getting darn cold in New York City and elsewhere and the occupy camps take a lot of energy to maintain. 

Perhaps now organizers can focus on new tactics, engaging the broad majority of Americans across the country who support the movement and want ways to be involved. 

From the conversations on the ground, I don’t expect any one new tactic will emerge right away but, over the coming days, expect to see a flurry of new activity as the 99% movement looks for its next incarnation. And, just as many Tea Party activists have supported the 99% movement because of shared opposition to TARP and Wall Street influence over Washington, you may find yourself inspired to join in as well.

Our system is broken. Government serves the interest of big business and big business only serves the interest of a very few, wealthy elites. It’s time to make our economy and our politics work for working people. 

Time will tell if the end of occupy camps is upon us, but without a doubt, the larger movement for opportunity in America is just beginning. You can evict hundreds of protesters, but you cannot evict an idea whose time has come.

Sally Kohn is a political commentator and grassroots strategist. You can find her on Twitter or at Movement Vision.org.

Sally Kohn joined the Fox News Channel in 2012 as a contributor.