Opinion » Ted Rall

The Revolution

Will Tahrir Square come to Washington, D.C.?


LOS ANGELES--People are rising up in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Patriotic Afghans, Iraqis and Yemenis are fighting puppet dictators propped by U.S. military occupation. They demand an end to violent, corrupt governments that serve themselves but not their citizens. People in the Middle East and European countries such as Greece refuse to accept systemic poverty and unemployment so that a tiny slice of corrupt, well-connected elites can continue to amass wealth.

Why can't we have a Tahrir Square?

Here in the United States, corrupt politicians and their corporate overlords have raped the wealthiest nation in the history of civilization, reducing one out of five Americans to unemployment as the income of the rich skyrockets. They tell us our schoolchildren must do with less and that we cannot afford to see doctors when we are ill. Meanwhile they start prolonged, seemingly endless wars of aggression against nations that posed no threat.

Organizers are calling a demonstration planned for Thursday, Oct. 6, in Washington's Freedom Square "the biggest story on the progressive sphere of the Internet tomorrow." Oct. 6 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. This, they say, will not be the usual sad protest demonstration in which people show up, chant slogans, march around, then pack up their signs and go home.

The idea behind Oct. 6 is to recreate Tahrir Square two blocks from the White House. [Full disclosure: I have endorsed Oct. 6.]

"We are not packing up and leaving this time," says Tarak Kauff, one of the organizers. "We are preparing to stay as long as we possibly can or until some basic demands are met. If we are driven out, we will return."

"Previous demonstrations were one-day events, which were simple for the administration and Congress to ignore," Margaret Flowers, another organizer, told me. "The large demonstrations usually happened on weekends when there was little going on in Washington. This is different because it is an occupation that begins on a Thursday, a day of business, and will continue."

All the participating groups have pledged to remain nonviolent. But a real demand for real change? The system will view that as a threat.

Flowers: "If the police respond violently, we will do our best to maintain a nonviolent response. If we responded with violence, it would reinforce the police violence, and they have weapons, so more people would be hurt ... It will be very unfortunate if the police and others working for the security state choose violence. But that is a possibility as we are seeing in this country and around the world. Empires have a history of violence. We want a different kind of society--one that is peaceful, just and sustainable. That is the kind of society we intend to model during our occupation."

Unlike previous demonstrations, on one issue like globalization or gay rights, Oct. 6 is an attempt to unify the American left into a holistic attack upon the main cause of most of the problems we face: the hegemony of big business that is the inevitable culmination of late-stage capitalism.

"History is not a fairy tale you read to your children at night," reads the mission statement. "It is not something someone else did in another place. History is right here and right now, in front of you."