Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Bill of Rights birthed at 26 WALL Street. 5 October '11
History not only has a way of being full of ironies - but there's one particular important, incredible, mind-boggling and significant one unfolding this week.
Consider this: 222 years ago this week - the Bill of Rights was introduced in Congress.
And we all know that the very first guarantee in the Bill of Rights was...
the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
But what most people don't know - is that this right - the most fundamental right that our democracy depends on - was birthed in the belly of what is today... the beast.
That's right - and by the way, tip of the hat to John Nichols who first told me about this - the capital of the United States in 1789 - well actually I knew this part before, but not about the 222 years - the capital of the United States in 1789 was not here in Washington, DC - instead in New York City.
And Congress convened in a building called Federal Hall which was located at... 26 WALL Street - right across the way from where the New York Stock Exchange stands today - right across the way.
And this afternoon - tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of New York City - exercising those first amendment rights that they talked about in that bill of rights in amendment number 1 marching and protesting against the hijacking and frankly the destruction of our economy by the banksters on Wall Street.
But beyond the irony of Americans taking to the streets in protest against Wall Street - using that very same first amendment and the right associated with it that was created on Wall Street - there is a more disturbing irony.
And that's how that very same first amendment right is now being eroded in the very same place it was created.
What does a right to peaceably assemble and petition the government look like?.
Does it look like a group of women getting penned up and then pepper-sprayed without provocation a block or two away from where James Madison read the First Amendment?
Does the right to peaceably assemble look like 700 people getting corralled together on the Brooklyn Bridge and being handcuffed one-by-one through the night - shoved on to busses - booked and processed?
This isn't what our Founding Fathers imagined when they drafted those immortal words.
The first amendment doesn't say the right to peaceably assemble in "free-speech zones" only.
Or the right to peaceably assemble as long as you're not blocking traffic.
Or the right to peaceably assemble as long as you don't get on the nerves of a rogue NYPD cop.
It says the right to peaceably assemble - simple and straightforward - which is exactly what people have been doing in Manhattan and frankly all over the nation for the past 3 weeks - exactly the way our Founders hoped our democracy would work.
They believed that when things went astray - when the government stopped listening to the people - when concentrated wealth started threatening economic freedom - then the people could, would, and should take to the streets - demand change - without bloodshed, without pepper spray, and without violence.
If they saw how these people - young and old - have been treated over the last 3 weeks as they exercised their first amendment rights - if our Founding Fathers saw that they would be horrified.
Our first Amendment was created on Wall Street when that was our nation's political capital.
Now, our nation's capital has moved to Washington, DC, and Wall Street is just a place where banking and financial business is done.
And it would be a horrible irony if on that same block on Wall Street where the First Amendment was first ratified, 222 years ago this week, democracy was to begin to die.
Don't let it happen.
Occupy Wall Street!
That's The Big Picture.