The Occupy Wall Street protests, especially in Oakland, and the news it has generated, brings up memories of former United States Senator from California, S. I. Hayakawa. The former English professor and president of the then named San Francisco State College achieved world-wide attention for standing up to protests at the school during the raucous 1960s. His stance led him to eventually win a U. S. Senate seat when he upset sitting senator John Tunney in the 1976 election.
In a feature article on the senator, People magazine described the event that gained Hayakawa fame.
Newly elevated to the presidency of riot-besieged San Francisco State College, the diminutive (5’6″, 150-pound) academic clambered to the top of a radical-held sound truck, ordered the dissidents to “get the hell out of here,” and yanked the wires from their loudspeakers. Photographs of that incident, with Hayakawa wearing an incongruous tam-o’-shanter, were flashed to the world. He was enshrined forever as a man who dared stand up to the anarchy that seemed to be engulfing the nation.
While no individual stands up as a symbol of resisting the Occupy movement as Hayakawa did to the protests of the 1960s, candidates who support the Occupy movement could be the focus of negative attacks.
Already in what is viewed as a hotly contested Massachusetts senate race, Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor taking on incumbent Scott Brown, is targeted by the conservative PAC Crossroads GPS in an ad that says Warren sides with Occupy Wall Street protestors “who attack police, do drugs, and trash public parks. They support radical redistribution of wealth and violence.”
Yesterday, in Oakland, Occupy protestors drowned out a press conference of five city council members, increasing tension in the city. The images from Oakland continue to make national news.
California and its electorate is certainly not the same as it was when Hayakawa made his stand and turned it into a political victory for himself a few years later.
However, the images and arguments over the Occupy protestors are sure to find their way into coming political campaigns and make or break a few political careers.