Editorials

Occupy protesters losing 99 percent's sympathy

Many a large city would be happy this New Year if the various groups of Occupy protesters resolved to pack up and go home.

The groups earned empathy from many folks when the movement began Sept. 17 in New York. The movement quickly spread as a rebellion against what protesters saw as corporate greed, Wall Street's contribution to the nation's economic collapse and other financial evils of big business.

But what the Occupy protests have ended up doing seems to fly in the face of their original purpose.

You would have thought a group of protesters like this would be all about being green, protecting our lands and behaving well as a way to show the good in the world. You would have thought they'd be about small business, the antithesis of the large corporations and financial institutions targeted by the protests. You would have thought they'd demonstrate responsibility when trying to trying to call attention to the irresponsibility of mega-businesses.

But the Occupy protesters have done just the opposite in too many cases. They have been uncooperative, destroyed public property and cost the working families who ultimately pay for municipal services millions of dollars for additional police work, sanitation, garbage collection and repairs to public parks where the campouts have taken place.

The large clusters of largely out-of-work protesters whose hygiene habits have gone on hiatus have driven customers away from nearby family-owned business because shoppers don't want to deal with the protesters, putting those businesses in peril.

Occupy protests claim one percent of the nation holds the wealth and the other 99 percent of us are absorbing the effects of our flagging economy. But the damage done by the Occupy protests has been on the 99 percent they claim to represent, like police, longshoremen, city workers and average taxpayers.

West Coast ports were the most recent target of the protesters, who thought shutting down access to shipping was somehow good for our economy. They said there were supporting union workers and cutting into corporate profits.

They hit the ports of Seattle and Portland, two prime venues for exports of agricultural products produced right here in the Columbia Basin.

Shutting down global food supplies and hurting farmers' profits is no way to get back at Wall Street. In Seattle alone, 22,000 people work in jobs created by the port, with a daily payroll of $1.9 million. Preventing those folks from doing their jobs is not a way to get back at mega-banks and Wall Street firms either.

It's clear that the Occupy protests have become some kind of beast with a mind of its own, its original intents obscured by a pile of waste and crumpled tents. Too many of the protesters have developed a pack mentality and lost their moral compasses. People want a fix for the ailing economy, but Occupy protests that alienate large numbers of the 99 percent won't help.

Protests in the Olympia last month put a spotlight on the movement's shortcomings. Occupiers injured six state troopers -- two received bite wounds -- and cost the already strained state budget about $96,000 in additional security for the Legislature.

Incident Commander Lt. Mark Arras told The Olympian newspaper that it's tough to measure the full costs of pulling troopers off the streets to preserve order.

"The day-to-day work of troopers is important, or we wouldn't have them doing it," Arras said. "If your car broke down yesterday (during the protests) and you sat beside the freeway for an extended period, that soft cost suddenly has a very real impact."

Polls indicate that a majority of state residents already were sympathetic to many of the concerns raised by protesters. Despite economic fatigue, it's clear that many state residents are willing to pay more to prevent further erosion of our quality of life.

A recent poll by Elway Research shows that 64 percent of Washington residents would likely support a proposed sales tax increase to help preserve educational and social services that may otherwise fall victim to our state's budget woes.

Maybe the Occupy protesters should take a lesson from that and be doing more to help their fellow 99 percenters, and less to drive them further into economic turmoil.

The bad apples in the movement have squandered much of the empathy that existed and swelled the ranks of those who think the protesters' time would be better spent looking for jobs and contributing to our country's economy.

Every time a protester commits an antisocial act that hurts our country's workers or drains government budgets, it drives the wedge further between the Occupiers and the real 99 percent.

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