On Wednesday at 2AM , hundreds of NYPD officers evicted the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. (1) They shutdown the airspace over NY to prevent the media from filming from helicopters. They barred all media from filming the events taking place. (2) Police officers destroyed tents and other belongings of the protestors and arrested around 70 protestors. (3) What. The. Fuck.
A lot closer to home (for me at least), the Oakland Police raided the Occupy Oakland camp and evicted them again that same night. (4) Oakland Police used many of the same tactics that the NYPD used (except for the media blackout), so much so that I wonder if there was collaboration. I think that the seriousness of these actions are summed up well from an Occupy London supporter (5):
[We want] to know why Secretary of State Clinton feels comfortable demanding dictators such as Mubarak and Assad respect and allow peaceful protest while the NYPD, Oakland PD, Denver PD, and others across the U.S. brutally gas, pepper-spray and beat peaceful protesters to suppress dissent.
Consider this: the police have done virtually all of their evictions during the middle of the night when everyone is asleep? Why do this? It would most likely cost more money to the police departments due to overtime, and of course any night operation is going to be more dangerous than a daytime operation. A daytime operation would also give the police a chance to get the protestors (or at least a certain percentage of them) to comply with requests before using force. But they took the other option. Why?
My hypothesis is that the police (and presumably the mayor’s office who coordinated the raid), wanted to minimize public outcry over the eviction (hence the media blackout). Of course, this is the internet age, and they are already starting to experience the Streisand Effect (I’m posting about after all). All that these confrontations are only going to help the cause, because if there’s one thing the media loves it’s a flashy confrontation.
So what next? There is always the possibility that the occupy movement will die down, but I don’t think it’s that likely. What I want to see happen is for the movement to keep doing what they are doing, only more so. As of October 27th, the movement had already cost the NYPD $5 million in overtime, and this was before the big raid which undoubtedly raised this figure considerably. (6) I want this cost to go up even more. I want opposition to the movement to become politically untenable. There are already signs that this is beginning to happen. Dan Siegel, Oakland city hall legal advisor, resigned his position in support of Occupy Oakland, tweeting “No longer Mayor Quan’s legal adviser. Resigned at 2 am. Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators.” Oakland Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu resigned for reasons unknown, and it is widely believed that she was forced by public opinion to resign given Cornu’s support for the Mayor’s actions. (4)
This is how political advancement is achieved. Protests must be peaceful, as these have been, but at the same time they MUST inconvenience their opposition. This is the problem I have with “free speech zones” and the like; the make it such that in order for someone to express their ideas, they must do so in a way that all but guarantees they are ignored. Civil disobedience, along with persistence, is the key to change, and this is something the Occupy movement has taken to heart.
Many people have dismissed the movement for being “incoherent” and lacking a central message. They think that nothing will come of the movement because they aren’t asking for concrete changes. I think these people are idiots. The specifics of change, usually in the form of legislation, are rarely instigated by those calling for change. The Civil Rights Act was not crafted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the many other civil rights leaders of the era; it was crafted by Congress led by President Johnson, but that doesn’t diminish the role that Dr. King played. Perhaps a more relevant comparison would be with the counterculture movement of the 1960’s. Once again, look at how much the counterculture movement changed American culture despite the fact that they were just “dirty hippies.”
The movement is real, and it’s cause it just. I don’t foresee it going anywhere, and I think that it will get stronger and has the chance to lead to real change.
(1) Assassin Actual. “Showdown at Zuccotti Park.” Assassin Actual. 15th November, 2011. Available: http://freethoughtblogs.com/assassin/2011/11/15/showdown-at-zuccotti-park/
(2) Stelter, Brian and Al Baker. “Reporters Say Police Denied Access to Protest Site.” The New York Times. 15th November, 2011. Available: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/15/reporters-say-police-denied-access-to-protest-site/?src=tp
(3) Gray, Rosie. “Occupy Wall Street Raid: What it Was Like at the Last Moments of the Zuccotti Occupation.” The Village Voice. 15th November, 2011. Available: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/11/occupy_wall_str_29.php
(4) “Occupy Oakland.” Wikipedia. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Oakland
(5) Gibson, Megan. “Occupy London Pledges Solidarity After Wall Street Protesters Evicted.” Time. 15th November, 2011. Available: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/11/15/occupy-london-pledges-solidarity-after-wall-street-protesters-evicted/
(6) “Occupy Wall Street.” Wikipedia. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street