The Occupy Wall Street movement has been marred by numerous public relations flaps during the past few months: the rioting in Oakland, the rapes at Zuccotti, the dead bodies discovered at various protest sites. But one of the most devastating is the recent video of a 78-year-old woman getting knocked down a flight of cement stairs by a “human chain” of Occupy DC protesters.
The woman in the video, which has been viewed over 100,000 times since it was posted on YouTube three days ago, is Dolores Brodersen. To the Occupy DC protesters chanting anti-capitalist slogans in her face, she may have seemed like the archetypal enemy: an older white woman, well-dressed, leaving a Koch brothers-sponsored dinner. The reality would probably surprise them.
Dolores, a grandmother of three, is a retired special education teacher. She worked in the Detroit public school system for 40 years. And she lives on a pension. “A Michigan education pension,” she told me over the phone. “I’m certainly not rich and I never have been. I’m a teacher. I’m retired. I never made a lot of money.”
Dolores took an 11-hour bus ride to attend the Koch dinner in D.C., part of a $350 package she purchased through Americans for Prosperity. After a short hospital visit, she’s now back home in Michigan, trying to put the events from that day behind her. But some effects still linger: bruises, headaches in the back of her head, and anxiety. “Talking about it makes my stomach sick,” she said. “I was feeling so bad this afternoon after talking about it. [Reporters] wanted to come in and film it, and I just couldn’t do it.”
She never did find out who pushed her down the stairs, and says she’s not planning to take legal action against the protesters. It’s also impossible to tell from the video whether the shove was intentional. But Dolores has a guess as to what prompted the Occupiers to get physical with the dinner attendees: “I think they thought we were all rich or something,” she said.
This gets to the heart of the problem with Occupy Wall Street. The class warfare it promotes dehumanizes people to the extent where it seems appropriate to vandalize stores, urinate on banks, and barricade buildings. It engenders a Haves vs. Have Nots mentality, where the only way one side can win is if the other loses.
Most Americans just don’t see the world that way, which is why they haven’t embraced the Occupy movement. Many can sympathize with some of the movement’s concerns about Wall Street corruption and the cozy relationship between big business and government. But the difference is most Americans take out their concerns at the ballot box, not by intimidating and assaulting a group of private citizens attending a dinner.