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The Boston Tea Party Caused A City Shutdown, So Did Protests Of The Civil Rights Movement

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, among them professionals, the unemployed, students, retirees, veterans, and other patriotic Americans, took part in one of the largest 99 Percent Movement actions to date in Oakland Wednesday night. The Occupy Oakland group shut down wide swaths of the city as businesses and public workers stood side by side in solidarity of the strike. A wildcat strike at the Port of Oakland, an effort by workers to support the larger movement, closed one of the country’s largest container ports.

But on Twitter and throughout the conservative echo-chamber, a collective whine could be heard. For example, Michelle Malkin, a professional right-wing pundit who made a name for herself by whitewashing the Japanese internment and calling for more mass ethnic detention efforts, complained in a recent piece that Oakland shouldn’t support such “social justice follies.” Malkin says she is offended by those who would “paralyze downtown commerce.”

What these conservatives fail to understand, because of ignorance of history or simply a willful smear campaign based on ideology, is that every great American revival has caused a little inconvenience at times:

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  • The Boston Tea Party Caused The Shut Down Of Boston: The patriotic demonstrators who raided the East India Trading Company’s ships in Boston harbor destroyed a massive quantity of expensive tea. The protest, in reaction to a massive corporate tax cut and monopoly granted to the corporation, caused a backlash from the British government. The British government and its East India Trading Company allies imposed a large scale blockade of the city of Boston until the cost of the raid was paid back to the company. The punitive Intolerable Acts, passed by the British in the wake of the Tea Party, led to the Revolutionary War and the birth of America some three years later.
  • The Civil Rights Movement Shut Down Businesses And Cities In Protest Of American Apartheid: Starting in the late 1950′s, the struggle to end legal segregation and Jim Crow voting laws shifted tactics. Protesters against laws and business norms that oppressed African Americans and other non-whites turned to mass boycotts, sit-ins, and other forms of civil disobedience. Martin Luther King called for filling up the jails to overwhelm city authorities as demonstrators were arrested for simply using white facilities. In Greensboro, North Carolina, a small sit-in at the Woolsworth store turned spiraled into massive city-wide strikes and sit-ins, eventually costing area businesses an estimated50 percent in profits as city leaders refused to give in.

The American political and economic system is falling apart. No matter who wins an election, in many cases, the outcomes are the same: well-heeled corporate interests dictate policy. The Middle Class is deteriorating, the foreclosure crisis is unsolved, climate change threatens human existence, and poverty is skyrocketing in America.

The events in the Arab Spring are another reminder that civil disobedience can shut down entire countries, but have been effective in getting rid of autocratic leaders. During the protests in Tunisia, British travel companies complained about a large loss in revenue as tourists were unable to vacation in the seaside country. But one cannot place a price on freedom.

lee fang think progress

Lee Fang
Think Progress