The movement is building, says former CIA analyst Ray McGovern

  • Artist: Occupy
  • Title: DC
  • Length: 59:15 minutes (54.26 MB)
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Ray McGovern at Freedom Plaza, one of two sites of the occupation in Washington D.C.
McGovern at Freedom Plaza, one of two sites of the occupation in Washington D.C.

McGovern is confident in the inevitable success of a mass movement for renewed democracy and an end to corporate rule and militarism. He spoke with WCRS last weekend at Freedom Plaza, one of two sites of Occupy D.C.

“I work for justice now. I used to work for the CIA and the US Army, ” said McGovern whom police bloodied and arrested in February at George Washington University when he stood up in silent protest during a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During the spectacle of cops grabbing the 71-year-old McGovern, Clinton didn't miss a beat or blink an eye as she criticized--ironically-- governments that don’t allow protests and freedom of expression.

“I’m impressed by the folks here at our own Tahir Square, Freedom Plaza,” said McGovern last week as the late night crowd thinned, some people heading to their tents on the square, some heading to hotels or houses in nearby suburbs.

“The movement is building. This is a really good start, together with what’s going on in New York. In the beginning you never quite know what’s going to happen. But I’m really encouraged by what I see here.”

Black youths road past on skateboards now that the hippies had taken over the square, bringing with us hundreds of free pizzas courtesy of Food Not Bombs and local eateries. Normally, they can be jailed if police catch them skateboarding there.

“There are a lot of young people with whom I marched for 2 hours today, carrying the Veteran’s For Peace flag. It’s very emotionally satisfying to know that people care enough to be down here on this square sleeping and just staying around.”

McGovern said it was going to be interesting to see what happened when the permit to use Freedom Plaza expired the following day. Officials have since granted activists a four month permit.

People went there on October 6 for the Stop The Machine October 2011 occupation organizers had been planning for months, long before Occupy Wall Street drew international attention. Apparently, with much less planning, people began camping out in McPherson Square in DC on Oct 1 in a separate action.

On the plaza the crowd was older. In the square, just blocks away, they were younger and less racially and ethnically diverse. The plaza was more organized in a set-up-for-a-rock-concert sense by activists in their 40s and 50s.

But at the square, the unanimous decision making proceedings that the 20 somethings were going thru twice a day--the people's movement assemblies--seemed more vibrant and efficient. But people referred to both sites as being part of Occupy D.C.

In the coming weeks, harsh weather may push people from Freedom Plaza or McPherson Square before cops do so. The four month permit for the plaza still leaves the question of whether the energy of the occupations can be intensified, or even sustained.

“The main challenge that I see is that people in the US need to know there is no need to fire teachers or firemen. There’s no need to foreclose on homes. We have the money. The money’s here (in the US) but 58 percent of every dollar you pay in taxes goes to the military to fight feckless wars that will never end.”

McGovern said our political leaders use the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to promote the interests of big corporations at the expense of the people of the United States.

“There are people that profit from these wars like all those defense industries that incidentally or coincidentally control the media. Hello ! I guess it’s all coming in to focus now, huh ? If you look at the TV outlets and cable too, you'll find almost all of them are owned or controlled by mega corporations, like GE, for example, that are profiteering from war.”

But we can do something about this, McGovern said.

“Once we cause enough trouble in the manner of Martin Luther King Jr., once we raise enough tension so that people need to pay attention to us, once we close down the Washington Post just up the street here or CNN, then people will have to report, ‘hey, we’ve been closed down by these people who care about democracy.’”

How we do that is the big question, McGovern said.

“We want to do it nonviolently, but as you know, Martin Luther King Jr. incurred lots of violence against him and the movement. So, it depends on whether the DC cops down here and the national park police can continue to act responsibly, unlike some of those cops in New York City.”

McGovern said a social movement is starting, even though it is modest in numbers so far and even though there is uncertainty about how things will unfold.

“As Chris Hedges says, we’re it. It’s time. We have to put our bodies into it because nothing else works here. We have to make the kind of commitment where nonviolent resistance is going to make its mark. It’s an uphill challenge, but we’re up to it.”

McGovern said if we have enough people joining our movement to make our government accountable to the will of the people, instead of big corporations, we will have the strength to succeed as we face reactionary violence.

“When they meet up with 6, 7, or 8 thousand people, then it’s going to be a little difficult to put everybody in jail or beat up everybody. Numbers are going to count in this calculus and as people in the US realize that corporations that control things around here will not give up without being forced to. Inventive and imaginative ways will be found to shame them into it. It’s going to take time and persistence. We might not be able to do it this month or this year, but we will do it. You can count on that.”

McGovern said he may not live to see the fruition of this movement. But he said he is encouraged by the young people he has met at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza here in DC who seem willing to make sacrifices for a movement based on justice.

“I’m confident this will work out in such a way that we will honor the commitment that those early founders of our country made, and make it well again, make it a real democracy and a republic we can be proud of.”

Though McGovern believes the movement will succeed, he cautions against over-thinking our prospects for success. Instead, we should be faithful to our nation’s core ideals.

“It’s about remembering what our founding fathers incurred when they pledged their lives, their honor and their fortunes. It was far from clear that they wouldn’t end up on the end of a rope. If they had that kind of guts, we have that kind of guts too, whether it’s in Virginia or Massachusetts or places in between.”

Whether on Wall Street, or in D.C. or other cities across the nation, the main chant and slogan has been ‘we are the 99 percent.’ It would be hard to imagine that 99 percent without common ground between rank-and-file conservatives and rank-and-file progressives.

“Even the Tea Party folks are able to see the exorbitant costs of these feckless wars and the lack of money to do anything else in this country. All you have to do is the math, the arithmetic and see that once a country spends more than all the other countries of the world combined on its military, well, there is lots of money there. We could halve the military budget, solve a lot of the problems in our individual states and still be impregnable and unchallenged in the military sense around the world.”

McGovern said the United States shouldn’t pretend to conquer countries rich in oil and natural gas.

“Why don’t we take our place with other countries and negotiate agreements to get the stuff that we need ?”

McGovern said our country will be better off if our government stops trying to control other nations.

“Once we come to our senses and realize we don’t need to control all this stuff, that we can have our fair share, that we Americans are not special, that we don’t have any divine right to the world’s resources, once that comes into focus--and I think it will because I see it on the faces of these young people--we’ll come out all right. It’s going to take some time and some courage and probably a little blood , but I think we’ll be able to do it.

Earlier that day, gathered in circles in folding chairs or in groups of twos and threes, some people talked about revolution versus reform. McGovern said the difference is semantic.

“You can have a bloodless revolution. You can have lots of reform and call it a revolution. But I think nonviolent direct action that Martin Luther King Jr. suggested is what we need. In the first instance, it’s not going to establish a new government. Rather it’s going to expose what’s going on now.”

McGovern used the analogy of a boil King used in his Letter From The Birmingham Jail to illustrate the purpose of our current efforts to use nonviolent resistance to expose corruption and injustice:

“ Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” ---Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail

McGovern said human conscience still exists in this nation.

“I think we’re going to be able to prevail. But first we have to open the boil with all its pus-flowing ugliness. Let it pour out so we can be renewed and let the young people take over with an eye toward real justice in our