Photo: Protester Jenny Powers watches the crowd at Occupy Lincoln Center on December 1, 2011 (via MegRobertson/flickr)

This was a Daily Rant from David Goodfriend on the Tuesday December 6th edition of The Dylan Ratigan Show.

I’m troubled by the images of Occupy protesters being forcibly removed from McPherson Square park here in Washington, D.C.  I didn’t like it when the protesters were removed by force in New York or Oakland, either, but Washington is different.  Washington is our public square, it’s where the nation comes together to voice our views, air our grievances, and most important, petition our government.  That’s a right granted to all of us by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Throughout our history, the people have come to Washington to express through peaceful protest their ideas and feelings.  The Civil Rights marches.  The anti-abortion protests.  The Million Man March.  The Tea Party.  Whether you agree with them or not, these are sign posts on our national journey toward forming a more perfect union.

But there have been troubling episodes, too, when people tried to express their views in Washington only to be met with force.  And one of them stands out in my mind these days.

It was the middle of the Depression.  Veterans of World War I, who had been promised a cash bonus for their military service, were among the starving and unemployed masses.  They came to Washington and set up camp with their families in public places, demanding that the government pay their bonuses early.  They came here by the tens of thousands.

When President Hoover decided he had had enough, he sent soldiers mounted on horseback and backed by tanks to forcibly remove the veterans.  Those soldiers were led by none other than Douglass MacArthur, who later in life would be known as the general who disobeyed orders and was fired by President Harry S. Truman.

Shots were fired.  Veterans died.  Men, women, and children were driven from their camps.  The protest ended.  But the seeds of justice that were planted on that day eventually took root and, in 1936, as the New Deal was taking shape, the veterans got their bonuses.  It was part of a movement to establish a new baseline for personal economic dignity here in the United States.

Now, I realize that the Occupy DC protesters are not the same as the World War I veterans.  For one thing, it was totally unnecessary and provocative for a few protesters to build a wooden structure in the park.  I think the police actually used great restraint in how they handled that last Sunday.

But at a high level, the Occupy protesters and those World War I vets share something in common:  unemployed workers, including many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans needing a job; college grads drowning in student loans; retirees seeking security… they, too, feel as though they were promised something and have been betrayed.  They, too, came to Washington to petition their government to seek redress for grievances.  Different times, different degrees, but similar images in our national public square.

I work here in DC and I can tell you, the Occupy protesters aren’t hurting anyone.  They’re not stopping the capitol city from doing its business.  And to the extent that they warn Washington of its failure to protect the middle class, create jobs, and keep wealthy interests in check, I say:  let them Occupy!

You can watch David’s entire rant here: