Chai Ling, former commander-in-chief of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student movement, on Wednesday visited “Occupy Boston” protesters to provide them with encouragement.
“Without pressure to provide a public space for these protests to continue, the movement will not be sustained,” she said in a statement. “This lack of organization also plagued the Tiananmen Square movement early on and reminds me so much of what we went through.”
Police in Boston arrested 141 protesters early Tuesday morning at the Rose Kennedy Greenway in one of the biggest mass arrests in the city’s history.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he supported the goals of the demonstration, but that protesters had crossed the line by blocking rush-hour traffic and expanding their campground to a newly renovated area without a permit.
The “Occupy Boston” demonstration started in Dewey Square on September 30, inspired by the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protest in lower Manhattan.
“The movement doesn’t have a leader and needs a leadership team to be effective,” Ling, who now lives in Boston, added. “At first in Tienanmen, we didn’t have a leader. For days we could not agree. But when we did, we became a force that couldn’t be stopped, even when the tanks rolled in. If channeled well, this movement could bring profound change to our nation, but if handled poorly, it could result in a bloody riot.”
She said the movement should be about change for absolutely everyone, in contrast to their common slogan, “We are the 99 percent.”
“You’ve started something truly astounding, but the 99 percent are not with you, not yet—most of them are at home sleeping in their beds,” Ling explained. “They are confused when you use messages like ‘EAT THE RICH.’ When I sat with you, you were all about change, peaceful change. Show the world your message about making America better for the whole—the 100 percent, and more will join you.”
“The whole world is experiencing this type of dissatisfaction,” she said. “Every 20 years or so, there is a new generation that rises up to make history, and I’m thrilled to see they’re here.”