Category Archives: Occupy Protests

New Article: “Occupy Wall Street and International Human Rights”

New Article: Martha F. Davis, Occupy Wall Street and International Human Rights, 39 Fordham Urb. L.J. 931 (2012).  Abstract below:

This article employs a human rights lens to examine the extreme economic inequality targeted by Occupy Wall Street (OWS). First, I look at the fundamental question of whether such economic inequality constitutes a human rights violation. To analyze that question, I begin by examining the extent to which poverty has been deemed to raise international human rights concerns, finding that international human rights institutions have generally addressed poverty by focusing on the ways in which poverty frustrates the exercise of substantive and procedural human rights. I then use a similar lens to examine the issue of economic inequality, concluding that there is only scant support for the claim that extreme economic inequality in a highly developed nation like the U.S. directly violates human rights norms. Next, I review the ways in which poor people’s movements in the U.S. have utilized human rights framing to further their social change efforts, particularly in the last decade. Finally, I examine the extent to which human rights-based frames might be available to OWS given its attention to economic inequality in the midst of the relative prosperity of a developed nation. I propose two frames drawing on international human rights norms that might serve the OWS Movement well in both domestic and international forums, and could also push further development of international law in this area.

Two (opposing) New Articles related to Poverty and the Occupy Movement

1. Nick J. Sciullo, Social Justice in Turbulent Times: Critical Race Theory and Occupy Wall Street, 69 National Lawyers Guild Review (2012).  Abstract below:

In this brief article, I want to tackle several issues that are critically important to progressive move(ment)s in the law and in society as a whole. I am convinced that with continued articulation and a combined sense of theory and practice, the progressive community can make great strides in enriching the law and people’s experience with it. We need to move beyond litigation and engage our critical consciousness to embrace activism on all fronts. his is why I locate a positive politics of struggle in the Occupy Movements that progressives ought to embrace. At the same time, we must come to grips with the tremendous injustices perpetrated on people of color while we simultaneously critique the capitalist system that enacts a powerful system of oppression that is concomitant with the plight of racialized minorities. Social justice in turbulent times? Yes. A futurity of possibility? Absolutely.

2. Ilya Shapiro & Carl G. DeNigris [both of the Cato Institute], Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue: How the Government’s Unconstitutional Actions Hurt the 99%, forthcoming Drake Law Review.  Abstract below:

Economic freedom is the best tool man has ever had in the perpetual struggle against poverty. It allows every individual to employ their faculties to a multitude of opportunities, and it has fueled the economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty in the last century alone. Moreover, it provides a path for individuals and communities to free themselves from coercive government policies that serve political elites and discrete political classes at the expense of the politically weak. Because of their relative political weakness, the poor and lower middle class tend to suffer the most from these inescapable power disparities.

Yet economic freedom — and ultimately, economic growth — is not self-sustaining. This tool of prosperity requires sound principles that provide a framework for cooperation and voluntary exchanges in a free society. Principles equally applied to all and beyond the arbitrary discretion of government actors; principles that provide a degree of certainty and predictability in an otherwise uncertain world. That is, economic freedom requires the rule of law, not men.

In this article, we discuss the corrosive effects that unconstitutional actions have on the rule of law, economic growth and, in turn, on the ability of the poor to improve their economic misfortune. We focus on the institutional dangers and adverse incentives that unconstitutional policies tend to create. These dangers are not just abstract or theoretical; this article shows how specific unconstitutional actions adversely affect the lives of poor Americans. And while Part IV shows that even constitutional violations by local governments can have disastrous effects, our central theme is that the federal government’s disregard for the U.S. Constitution has led to policies that kill jobs, stymie economic growth, and ultimately exacerbate the problems of those living in poverty.

Michael Moore in The Nation: “The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street Is to Occupy Wall Street”

Michael Moore, The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street Is to Occupy Wall Street, The Nation, April 2, 2012 edition.

Occupy Protests, the Rule of Law, and California Public Universities

This is a delayed note but it is disheartening to see the steps universities have taken recently to block, with unnecessary violence in the case of Berkeley and now Davis, the Occupy protests from occupying university space.  As Robert Hockett noted regarding NYC’s decision to oust Occupy Wall Street, the question should not be the right to remove protesters but the wisdom of doing so.  There have been some “official” reactions by law professors highlighting the problematic nature of university responses (see Letter to Campus Administrators from Berkeley Law Faculty and Duncan Kennedy’s letter regarding Harvard’s overreaction).  The Colbert Report’s segment on the Berkeley police repression probably does the best job calling attention to the violence protesters have faced.  But given what I see as the promise and importance of the occupy social movement, such repression is all the more intolerably at odds with the professed values of universities.