BY TOM HESTER SR.
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators got some rare public support from a Democrat Thursday when Sen. Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) introduced a resolution in support of their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and speak.
The resolution comes in the wake of forced evacuations of Occupy protest sites by police in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. The Occupy movement began on Sept. 17 and Turner and its supporters see it as representative of the growing discontent with the influence of money in politics and the economic disparity that is widening the income gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the other 99 percent of the population.
“The response by police to largely peaceful assemblies in New York City, Oakland, the University of California-Davis, Philadelphia, Trenton, and many other communities are gross suppressions of citizens’ constitutional freedoms,” Turner said.
The senator added she laments the excessive use of force by police and administrators in cities and university campuses.
“Peacefully expressing the grievances held by many citizens toward the concentration of wealth and power in the United States is not a crime," she said.
Turner also expressed concern for the lack of acknowledgement and response to the movement by President Obama and state and local governments.
“Although government may not agree with the message of the movement, it is nonetheless obligated to respect and protect the constitutional freedoms of the protestors,” the senator said. “I am disappointed in our governments’ unwillingness to have an open dialogue with its citizens and the blind eye turned toward the suppression of citizens’ freedoms.”
Turner’s resolution recognizes that the policies that have benefited the wealthy have lead to social discord and class resentment, in addition to a shrinking of the middle class. The Democratic-controlled Legislature would become the first to acknowledge and lend its support to Occupy Wall Street if it passes the resolution.