Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Today’s Version of 1930s Bonus Army Protesters

In 1932, the Bonus Army — aka the Bonus Expeditionary Force or the Bonus March — was comprised of 17,000 World War I veterans and their families.  Including family members, the group added up to 43,000 marchers.  They occupied Washington, D.C. during the spring and summer of that year to demand payment of the money they were still owed for their service during WWI.

Retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler visited their campground to offer them encouragement and reassurance.  (And if you’re up on your American history, you know that Smedley Butler became famous later for refusing to take part in a rightwing plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

Anyway, General Smedley Butler’s endorsement didn’t do much good.  On July 28th, the U.S. Attorney General ordered the WWI veterans to vacate all government property.  During the ensuing clashes with police, two WWI veterans were shot and killed.  After that, President Hoover ordered the Army to clear out the campground completely.  All shelters and personal belongings were destroyed.

The following year there was a smaller march, which wasn’t squelched by police or the Army.  Three years after that, the WWI veterans received their pay.

Here are some more links.

Last night Rachel Maddow talked about the similarities between Occupy Wall Street and the Bonus Army; particularly the police crackdown in Oakland where an Iraqi war veteran was shot by the Oakland Police Department.

The more things change…

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Blogger jadedj said...

I was thinking about the similarities not long ago, and hoping OWS didn't end the same way.

An aside: Interestingly the general who was in charge of the army troops was Douglas MacArthur. My grandfather, who was a WWI Vet, had some pretty strong words about General MacArthur. Albeit, it was not MacArthur and the troops that fired on the vets, but the police. Nevertheless, MacArthur was forever associated with the dastardly deed by the vets that were there.

October 27, 2011 at 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering when someone was going to make that comparison, all week I was thinking of those encampments like "Hoovervilles" and waiting for the Republicans of today to paraphrase Hoover. After all they seem to want him back.

After FDR was elected the Vet's said "Hoover sicks the Army on us, Roosevelt sends his wife out with Coffee"


October 27, 2011 at 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Patton was there too, but every history book and documentary I ever saw said it was MacArthur who fired and burned the shacks down or trampled over them with Horses.

Are you sure?


October 27, 2011 at 11:43 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

It was MacArthur, and it was not his finest hour.

What happened to that veteran in Oakland was completely unnecessary and inexcusable. The whole debacle was an example of badly trained, poorly disciplined and horribly led thugs in uniforms, with badges.

It might just send a message that needs sending across the country if the powers that be in Oakland were to dismiss every cop involved in that incident and replace any higher ups who directed it. There are plenty of unemployed people who would probably really appreciate the chance to become police officers. With some decent training and leadership, they would surely be an improvement.

I am by no means anti police. I am very much opposed to armed, uniformed thugs wielding police power recklessly and brutally.

October 28, 2011 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger jadedj said...

Erik, I only have knowledge of my grandfather being there and of course what I've read. After your comment, I Googled it and Wikipedia confirms what I thought. But then, it's Wikipedia and trusting it is somewhat dubious at best.

In either case, S.W. Anderson is correct...not MacArthur's finest hour.

October 28, 2011 at 4:28 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Hello, fellow protesters -- I'd like to offer some advice, in the spirit of camaraderie for your ongoing demonstrations. You've been doing things in protests we Tea Partiers never did and you're having experiences I am unfamiliar with. I think perhaps I can offer some advice to stop these events from occurring. I see you've been having some trouble with the cops telling you to break it up and go home and then, when you don't, they shoot tear gas into the crowd and swarm in and bust skulls.

We never had that at the Tea Party protests even though at some Tea Party events, some folks showed up packing heat, which you would think is more than reason enough for cops to come in and shut it down. They never did, though, and there are probably several things we did that you haven't been successful at implementing. What follows are some things we did that assured a tear gas- and baton-free event, and I offer them up simply as friendly advice.

1) Get permits. I know it's a bit of a pain and subtracts from your feeling of impromptu, grassroots, screw-the-system activism, but seriously, we have certain rules in place to help keep order and protect people from uncontrollable situations that get out of hand. Plus it gives those "pigs" (do you still call cops "pigs"?) one less reason to roust you.

2) Police yourselves. I realize that part of your message is screw the system and you believe that folks should be able to do whatever, whenever and wherever they feel like it, but the fact of the matter is that illegal drugs are illegal drugs, and the feeling of power you may derive from having an "eff 'em -- just let them try to arrest me" attitude doesn't help your cause. People out here are calling you dirty hippies. You should work to get the general public on your side, not just the disaffected stoners, unemployed baristas, and out-of-work philosophy majors.

3) Have actual grievances with proposed solutions. "Destroy capitalism" may sound fine in the abstract and look great sharpied across your girlfriend's torso, but it's really not a grievance. Honestly, I have seen little beyond the standard communist sloganeering and heard little beyond a lot of talk about "unifying" (what you're unifying against and who is supposed to unify has also slipped my grasp), and frankly, after a month and more of protesting, I would think some of you could have come together and put in place a few talking points at least. While you're at it, be consistent! Calling for the Koch brothers to not support politicians and causes while not calling for Soros to do the same only shows your true agenda.

4) Find someone who is articulate and reasonably dressed to be your spokesperson. Having someone with wild hair that looks filthy, wearing a shirt with Che Guevara, a mass murderer, on it, and holding a sign that says "eat the rich" is probably not the best way to go to engender sympathy in the community at large. You may not think about it, but most of the people who watch the news and see you ranting about inequality probably just got home from a long day at work in the corporate world you're wanting to destroy, so getting those folks on your side would go a long way in helping you.

October 28, 2011 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Oh, and...
5) Hygiene! Learn it. Employ it. Looking like a modern version of Haight Ashbury circa 1967 may give you credibility at the coffee shop where you hang out and rail against the world, but it just makes you look like a dirty hippie on TV and in newspaper photos. Perhaps if you got a haircut and wore a suit and looked more like those you want to destroy, some people may be fooled into thinking you have a point. (But again, you must first have an actual grievance and a proposed solution before that's really going to happen. See point #3.)

6) Quit playing the drums. I know it's satisfying to bang your bongos, but seriously, it's monotonous and rather childish, which also happens to be the same description most thinking people give to your ideas as a whole.

7) Stop camping out. Bunches of people are saying, "Why don't these folks occupy a shower and a job?" (hearkening back to #5), and when you camp out for weeks, they don't think you're committed to a cause -- they think you're a lazy bum who doesn't have the 2 dollars a day it costs to camp in a campground. You never saw the Tea Party camping out. Granted, we Tea Parties weren't in the same boat as you Occupy kids; in other words, we had more at home waiting on us than an empty basement and a freezer full of Hot Pockets. We had, you know, responsibilities and homes and families to care for, jobs to go to, and, generally, you know...a life.

8) Listen to the cops. When they say leave, leave. Cops have a tendency to tell you only things you really need to know, and "disperse" is generally followed by tear gas canisters -- and, if you don't get the message at that point, batons swinging through the smoke. Face it: you kids don't have the knowledge or the guts to actually fight someone; in fact, part of your whole schtick is "war is not the answer" and "violence doesn't solve problems," but the truth is that it does, and the cops know it.

If you want to fight the system -- the very system, by the way, that has given you the freedom to sit around in a tent in the middle of major American cities for weeks on end and not die of starvation or exposure -- try to do it the old-fashioned way.

Hire a lobbyist.

October 28, 2011 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Or do it like Obama - Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.
At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.
Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.
But registered or not, the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide easily through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Mr. Obama at fund-raisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.

October 28, 2011 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

jadedj: Interesting; thanks for the background. Sounds like MacArthur managed to piss off a lot of people.

Erik: I doubt if Hoover would be far enough to the Right for today's Republicans.

SW: "I am by no means anti police. I am very much opposed to armed, uniformed thugs wielding police power recklessly and brutally."

My sentiments exactly. We need strong police departments, and the police have a dangerous thankless job. But they have incredible power over the rest of us, and there should be a Zero Tolerance policy toward rogue cops.

Jeannie: Your long-winded three-fer comment is related to the World War I veterans of 1932 (the subject of this post), uh, how exactly?

October 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger jadedj said...

Tom, it would seem you have attracted yet another loyal FOX News troll in Jeannie.

October 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Just pointing out some of the differences. There is a video of an OWS guy complaining about not having a job. One of the first things I would say to him is to maybe not tatoo his forhead, marijuana leafs no less.

October 28, 2011 at 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

I think the Veterans for Peace group in Boston named themselves after this Smedley fellow if I am not mistaken. Good history lesson for me though, I had not heard of the Bonus Army before this post. Thanks Tom, for another piece of info I can use in pub quizzes if it ever comes up, now that this is stuck in mah head.

Oh I see our resident annoyance has come by, proving once again these idiots are too stupid to exist. They cannot even follow the bouncing ball as far as what is being spoken of.

October 28, 2011 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Jess, you need to improve on your insults. "Stupid" is getting kind of old and... stupid.

I will be gone next week so you can have your hatefest.

October 28, 2011 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Jade - I don't get Fox News. Sorry to ruin your factless talking point.

October 28, 2011 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

That is fact no getting around it. What you decide to make of it is your business. As far as hating you, you are but a boil on the ass of humanity, although annoying, it will go away. Don't you have a long dirt nap you could be practising for, or snakes that need some handling you could be attending to?

October 28, 2011 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Ah. That was much better. My ex-Leftist icons (some were listed on the previous post) always point out how hateful and childish the Leftists really are.

October 28, 2011 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

jadedj: Yup, I seem to attract them for whatever reason. But they're entertaining, sort of like the court jesters of the Internet.

Jess: I first heard of the Bonus Army when Jolly Roger mentioned them in a comment a few weeks ago. I had to Google it. I knew about Smedley Butler refusing to take part in a plot to overthrow FDR. He informed Congress about it but they didn't take any action because they claimed they didn't believe him. But I didn't know he was also connected to the Bonus Army before that.

October 28, 2011 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger jadedj said...

S.W., absolutely no apology needed. I wasn't in anyway offended.

October 28, 2011 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Tom - FYI, I think I found this in a google search. And, I appreciate all of your diligence and responsiveness. I find it very hard to find anyone on the Left willing to engage in a debate. Some day I want to write a book about all my interactions with Lefties. I still find it hard to find someone willing to actually use facts, not spin, and stop ignoring the the data I supply and take it all the way to the end of an issue. I believe that that will ultimately have to be a video exchange too because I cannot afford to start a website with the format I think I would need.

October 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM  

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