A Facebook friend asks, in a discussion of Cliven Bundy:
Occupy San Francisco was permitted to illegally occupy Justin Herman Plaza for a month. Where was the liberal outrage?
This is a fair question.
There are a number of meaningful differences between Occupy and Bundy.
Occupy was an act of classical non-violent civil disobedience, violating the law while recognizing the legitimacy of the government. If and when cops would arrest Occupiers, while they did not coöperate, neither did they actively resist.
The case for civil disobedience as part of the democratic process is well-defined and well-accepted; we make kids read King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail and Thoreau's Civil Disobedience in school. Civil disobedience is a way of getting a democracy to change unjust laws by revealing the injustices they produce; it fundamentally respects and supports liberal democratic institutions and seeks to improve them.
Bundy and his supporters, in contrast, engaged in active armed resistance, rejecting the legitimacy of the duly-constituted and democratically elected government. When cops came for them, they drew guns and promised a fight.
The case for active armed resistance is also well-defined and well-accepted; we make kids read the Declaration of Independence in school. And it says that armed revolt is justified when a government is not a liberal democracy, when it is regarded as illegitimate by its citizens.
But the US government is regarded as legitimate by its citizens, and while its liberal democratic mechanisms are not as strong I would like them to be, they are there. Bundy's movement does not fundamentally respect the US's liberal democratic qualities; it actively rejects and attacks them through threat of violence.
There is a name for a “populist” movement by an armed minority which attacks the legitimacy of liberal democratic institutions in the name of the nation's “true spirit” which must be rescued from the corrupting influence of lesser races through acts of redemptive violence. It is not “civil disobedience”. It is something else.
Update: Historian Rick Perlstein observes:
Here is a truth so fundamental that it should be self-evident: When legitimately constituted state authority stands down in the face of armed threats, the very foundation of the republic is in danger. And yet that is exactly what happened at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch this spring: An alleged criminal defeated the cops, because the forces of lawlessness came at them with guns — then Bureau of Land Management officials further surrendered by removing the government markings from their vehicle to prevent violence against them.