Those who had been following Occupy Wall Street closely for the past weeks woke up this morning to news that the park had been cleared. It may have seemed surreal and unbelievable because the occupation had taken on this quality of invincibility that had created an aura around it since the occupation forced the city to back down from forcing a cleaning of the park weeks ago. But it was reality, and just before rush hour in New York City, occupiers were for the first time in the history of their occupation without a home base.
The occupation had managed to set up many tents, including massive military tents, without the New York Police Department moving into make arrests and confiscate property.
From the first day, the city and police strictly prohibited the use of tarps, tents or any shelters. The NYPD tackled and arrested occupiers in the first week, who defied the prohibition so people could stay dry during rainy weather.
While police had entered the park to confiscate property like generators, the NYPD and city recently looked the other way as the camp evolved and readied for winter. The winterizing likely terrified New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials, who publicly indicated their belief cold weather would bring an end to the 24/7 carnival of protest happening on the doorstep of Wall Street.
Bloomberg’s statement on the major police operation that resulted in hundreds of arrests, including the arrest of a reporter and city councilman who was injured, shows once again the contempt and scorn the power elite have for democracy. He claimed, “The law that created [Liberty Square] required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else.”
Essentially, Bloomberg was saying it became nearly impossible for someone to go down to the park and be apathetic and ignore the critique of corporate greed and impunity for Wall Street criminals, which the occupation has been making since its first days. He is suggesting that if one cannot go down to the park for their lunch break and eat in peace, without having to hear about issues of unemployment, poverty or debt, then the city has to intervene on behalf of New Yorkers that want to be able to tune out.
This is similar to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s argument against Occupy Oakland camping. “Camping is a tactic,” she stated after the second raid of Occupy Oakland on November 14. “It is one that has divided Oakland, a city of the 99 percent. It’s time to work together on the issues of unemployment, foreclosures and education cuts. While the camping must end, the movement continues.”
The notion that camping should not be allowed because it presumably “divides” the 99 percent or that it should not be allowed because it does not allow for “passive recreation” all stems from the ideology of politicians like Bloomberg or Quan. They see themselves as democracy managers.
As Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, democracy managers find that one of their main functions is “to foresee the unexpected, eliminate or cope effectively with the unforeseen (“risk management,” “crisis management”); to exploit or contain change insofar as it affects his or her enterprise; and to seize opportunities and aggressively use them to advance the power advantage of the firm — and of him- or herself.”
No greater proof that Bloomberg is indoctrinated with this democracy management ideology exists than what he had to say about the First Amendment in his statement:
I have said that the City had two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protestors’ First Amendment rights.
But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority.
Bloomberg contended that first responders would not be able to respond properly with structures setup in the park. Such health and safety concerns, though, are a cover, as Danny Alterman of the Liberty Park Legal Working Group, said on Democracy Now! (the LPLWG secured the temporary restraining order against the eviction at 6 am this morning):
…We believe that the health and safety issues articulated by Mayor Bloomberg are pretextural. They had months and months to deal with this stuff. They are doing this, I think, because of the self-proclaimed and very vocal determination of the people that represent 99 percent of this country and who are scheduling a big Wall Street demonstration for Thursday.
Thus, it is all too clear why the encampment had to go on November 15. It had less to do with the presence of tents and more to do with the growing power of a movement.
On November 17, occupiers planned a massive day of action to mark their two-month anniversary. They planned to hold a massive demonstration at 7 am in front of the New York Stock Exchange. They were preparing a “block party the 1 percent” would “never forget.” They said they would “shut down Wall Street.” After that, they would get on subway trains to tell the “stories of disenfranchised Americans.” The occupiers planned to march across the Brooklyn Bridge and even hold a demonstration in Foley Square at 5 pm.
The massive day of action scared Bloomberg, the NYPD, and city officials. It frightened the 1 percent, comrades of Bloomberg. They did not want to see what would happen on November 17 because they have already suffered from this movement. They had already seen it stop banks from slapping fees on debit cards and push hundreds of thousands of people to move their money from Big Banks into credit unions. They had paid attention to how the people are building up organization to prevent banks from foreclosing on homes. And those on Wall Street, more than anything, trembled at the movement’s momentum because it could produce investigations that would strip them of the immunity from prosecutions that they have enjoyed since contributing to the collapse of the economy in 2008.
Unfortunately, what the power elite did not understand is that this movement is bigger than Liberty Square. Occupiers understand what they are doing is not about physical space. As musician David Crosby said last week, “The park is the spark.”
The power elite of New York City can run occupiers out of a square and force them to comply with guidelines that prohibit the use of tarps or tents if they wish to return, but that will not make citizens go away. They have been out demonstrating for nearly sixty days. This is all they have been doing. Their job or occupation has been the occupation. Their job has been to occupy and be the vanguard for this populist movement that will hopefully usher in an era of economic equality and justice in America.
To raid the camp now, when occupiers enjoy wide support in the city and throughout the United States, is to commit a gross error that will over the next twenty-four hours backfire immensely. People who would never have taken place in the day of action will now be there on November 17 to make shutting down Wall Street even more possible than before.