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Occupy Wall Street protesters are American patriots

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
updated 2:16 PM EDT, Mon October 10, 2011
Occupy Wall Street protesters demonstrating in Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. this week
Occupy Wall Street protesters demonstrating in Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. this week
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Without dissent and protest, there is no United States, Roland S. Martin says
  • Characterizing Occupy Wall Street protesters as anti-American is disgusting, he says
  • Martin: It's not an assault on capitalism, but a call for decency in in the financial industry

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- "An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment." -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan, 1964

It's downright disgusting to listen to conservative and Republican lawmakers, presidential candidates, business owners and media commentators use such vitriol to describe the Occupy Wall Street protesters as hell-bent on destroying America.

How in the world can anyone even form their lips to say such a thing when this very country was founded on the basis of dissent?

Self-professed rodeo clown Glenn Beck castigates the Occupy Wall Street protesters, but he's always running off at the mouth about the Founding Fathers and how brilliant they were.

Without dissent and protest, there is no United States of America! It's as if these folks never picked up a history book to understand how this nation was formed. The very notion of a United States of America started with someone saying, writing and screaming, "Enough is enough!" And when more and more of the early settlers became enraged at the heavy-handed actions of the British, that's when we were on our path to the American Revolution.

Do any of these so-called strict constructionists even read the very U.S. Constitution they love to wave in the faces of their critics?

Every American, no matter if you're young or old; rich or poor; red state or blue state; Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Native American; has the freedom to assemble and freedom of speech, which is at the heart of these protests.

In this same space, I praised the tea party for not sitting around and complaining. Instead, they organized and mobilized to affect the political discourse in the Republican Party and have definitely had their voices heard. I may disagree with a number of things the tea party advocates, but there is no way I would condemn them for doing it. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said, "The right to revolt has sources deep in our history."

It's increasingly clear that some Americans love to talk a good game about protests, yet hate it when someone who opposes their views decides to stand up and be heard.

Remember all of those political voices championing the people of Iran taking to the streets to protest? How about Tunisia? Egypt? Libya? Bahrain? What would this world be without protest?

We would have never seen freedom in Eastern Europe were it not without the people there, in the words of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, being "sick and tired of being sick and tired." Praise God that the children of South Africa, led by the African National Congress, didn't ignore the calls of history. If so, Nelson Mandela would be dying in jail and freedom would have never ended apartheid.

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This nation would not have been forced to make real the very principles cited in the Declaration of Independence, or treat every human being as an equal, were it not for the civil rights movement. Those brave men, women and children chose not to accept the status quo, and this nation and the world are much better off because they did.

As a supporter of Occupy Wall Street, I understand fully the sentiment that is being expressed. The massive corporate greed that has devastated the wages of the common worker, and seen the pay of a bunch on Wall Street go through the stratosphere for literally making nothing tangible, has been immoral and obscene.

Wall Street and their protectors in Washington -- Democrat and Republican -- say nothing is wrong with making a profit. That is absolutely true. But what is shameful and outlandish is to watch the American taxpayer save the jobs (and big bonuses) of these financial miscreants, only to see them jack up fees left and right. Without the American people they would have had to pack up their belongings and hit the pavement. Instead, they refuse to work with homeowners struggling to meet the big mortgage payments that Wall Street helped underwrite; then sell in exotic transactions that wrecked this nation's financial infrastructure.

Conservatives call this an assault on capitalism. No, Occupy Wall Street is about trying to bring some decency and honesty back to an industry that used to have some. Instead, what we have today are literal financial pirates trying to take the largest booty they can find. They don't care about the long-term health of this country. It's all about the next quarterly earnings reports and their massive year-end bonuses.

This fight that Occupy Wall Street is engaged in is nothing short of a battle for the soul of this nation. Are we going to continue to allow ourselves to be held hostage by the big banks? Will we continue to allow them to trample over us with their "too big to fail" attitude?

No, no, and hell no. It's time to bring these Goliaths to their knees by any means necessary. That mean the young and righteous Davids must protest, march, sit-in, work the halls of Congress and state capitals nationwide, and make it clear that as long as Wall Street, its lobbyists and political protectors continue to mistreat the common man and woman, they are our mortal enemy.

Now is not the time to dismiss the protesters as a bunch of lefty college students with no guidance, no substance and no mission. Instead of listening to politicians pimp the next generation, these folks are saying in the words of the founders of the nation's first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal: "We wish to plead our own cause; too long have others spoken for us."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.

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