Thankfully George Pullman is not sitting on Wall Street today. Getting arrested beats what happened to the Pullman workers. This morning’s coffee discussion bled into a lunch discussion. The academic question was “what if the Occupy movement had happened in earlier “good ol’ days” of American history?” We had no concrete answer, but rabbit holes were explored. Three former “protest” movements were identified as possible case studies. For those of you with no desire to read the rest of this, here is the answer: we have no fucking clue… but it is interesting to ponder the reliance of using military force. We obviously think of the Vietnam War protest and Civil Rights movements, but there are other examples.
– Whiskey Rebellion, 1794: The new American government needed funds, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton thought taxing whiskey would be a good source for big government exploitation. Distillers in western Pennsylvania thought differently. Some whiskey “rebels” attacked a federal tax collector’s office. President George Washington, at Hamilton’s urging, eventually sent in approximately 13,000 state militia members headed by Hamilton and the Virginia governor. The rebellion was squashed… two “rebels” were tried for treason, but later pardoned. Maybe the Tea Party should really be the Whiskey Party… now that is something I would support.
– New York City Draft Riots, 1863: Democratic New York Governor Seymour despised Republican President Lincoln. Poor Irish immigrants despised being forced to head South and fight for blacks. New York City Provost Marshall announced the names of the first NYC draftees on July 12, 1863. Within hours a mob over 50,000 (primarily Irish) looted and rioted in the East Side of NYC, including numerous lynching and beating of blacks. For three days violence reigned, causing approximately $1.5 million in damages. Eventually, President Lincoln dispatched the federal Army of the Potomac who encamped in NYC for weeks.
– Bonus Army, 1932: In the Summer of 1932, thousands of American World War I veterans had encamped in downtown DC (the original Occupy DC movement) to lend support to a congressional bill that would authorize the paying of bonuses to the veterans for their service in the Great War. A law had been passed in 1924, but the payment and been deferred. On July 28th, a U.S. Army brigade marched (literally… not a protest march, but a military march) into DC to dislodge the veterans from their campsite. There was approximately 43,000 members of the Bonus Army, which included 17,000 veterans and their families (and affiliated groups). After a few incidents of police intervention and violent responses by the veterans, the U.S. Army, under command of General Douglas MacArthur moved in. 55 veterans were hurt and 135 arrested. They eventually got their bonus of $2 billion , only after Congress over road President Franklin Roosevelt’s veto in 1936.
The theme seems to be the use of federal forces in these case studies. Today, major metropolitan police forces are militarized, so I guess it’s about the same.