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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The End of Occupy Wall Street?

Updated below:

Well, it looks like Mike Bloomberg has had enough of the OWS crowd. If you've not yet heard, NYC announced that Zuccotti Park needs to be "cleaned" beginning tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Supposedly, the cleaning will be done in sections; protesters will be required to leave each section as it is being cleaned, and then will be permitted to return.

Ah, but there's a catch.

Zuccotti park is privately owned, although it is made available for public use. Apparently, this status means the owners (a real estate development firm, I believe) can establish "reasonable rules and regulations" governing the park's use. Those rules have just been announced and they include, inter alia, no sleeping bags, no tarps, and no lying on the ground or on benches.

Apparently, what Bloomberg intends is to clear the park sector by sector, and then permit the protesters back in but without their sleeping bags to keep them warm and without any tarps to keep their equipment dry. Oh, yeah . . . and if they lie down to sleep on the ground or on a bench (even without a sleeping bag) they can be evicted.

If these newly announced rules actually are going to be enforced then this may very well be the end of Occupy Wall Street. The demonstration depends for its effectiveness on being physically present 24/7. But they can't do that without sleeping bags, tarps, and the ability to physically lie down.

Right now a large number of the protesters are engaged in their own clean-up efforts in an attempt to forestall Bloomberg's de facto eviction, but if Bloomberg's announcement is just an excuse to shut down the protest then no amount of cleaning by OWS is going to persuade NYC that it needn't send in its own "cleaning crew" and going forward with the eviction. In fact, my understanding is that this is precisely how Bloomberg cleared a previous protest movement, "Bloombergville," just a few months ago.

And if that is what happens them I hope the OWS protesters have the sense to force the police to physically drag them from the park for the cameras. If the protesters simply go willingly then there will be no drama and nothing to see . . . and they still won't be allowed to resume their occupation.

However, if they force the NYPD into direct action, then that at least might capture the nation's attention and generate some sympathy for the movement. (Although I note that Bloomberg scheduled this move on a Friday. Friday is traditionally the day politicians drop unwelcome news in the hope that most people will tune out until Monday, when whatever happened on Friday will be old news, easily forgotten. No doubt Bloomberg figures that if the eviction becomes violent the weekend will provide a "cooling off" period that might tamp down some expected outrage.)

Still, the best way to draw attention to the fact the city is shutting down something that recently has been getting national attention is to refuse to allow the city to pretend that this isn't what it is doing. Which means making the cops drag the protesters away by force. For the reasons set forth here, sometimes actually accomplishing something means one has to take a beating.

Update: I just saw that the owners of Zuccotti Park have "postponed" their clean-up plans. I'm not sure if this means that they are still going to attempt to enforce the "no sleeping bags, no tarps, no lying down" rules, but my guess is that unless they are prepared to take the park back by force they won't make any attempt to enforce them.

Of course, they won't rescind the rules either; they'll still be there to provide Bloomberg with a pretext in the event he decides to shut OWS down. (Also, and for whatever it's worth, it is my understanding that Bloomberg's girlfriend is a member of the Board of Directors for the company that owns the park.)

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