Zuccotti Park, November 17, 2011
Photo - Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn
To go to a parent teachers conference at our daughter's public high school, of all things, we ventured into a lower Manhattan that had been converted into a sort of police state. Certainly friendlier than the real thing, I guess, as long as you weren't an OWS protestor, but a police state nevertheless. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I don't recall quite such a sense of lock down, from Chambers Street to the Battery. The bars and restaurants along Wiliams and Stone Street weren't full, but you had a sense that for Wall Street, it was business as usual. Maybe the heart of America' s economic engine thrives under certain kinds of adversity, though perhaps not all. Maybe that's why there was a sense that Wall Street, the beating heart of our Hamiltonian Democracy, is protected at all costs by the State. While cops in the past weeks have maced women (and even, recklessly, their fellow cops for that matter), and arrested and in some cases beaten lots of protestors (and City Councilman and reporters), the folks pulling the levers-- in some cases, arguably themselves criminals for economic malfeasance--remain virtually invisible, aloof, behind the curtain, untouchable in their Fortresses of Solitude.
Clearly Zuccotti Park is more of a plaza than a bucolic redoubt. Consequently, during the OWS occupation, it had no doubt been transformed into an unsightly, smelly, gross, and downright nasty campground. Anyone willing to remain there if they had somewhere better to stay, would have been devoted to the cause indeed. At the same time, that is why it is so interesting that the criticisms of the protestors by some in the government, by the Right, and some in the media, have been so inconsistent: They are homeless loonies; they are slumming ideological trust funders; they are college students whose parents pay their tuitions and let them live in the basement. None of which appear to be reasons why someone should not protest against economic inequality and greed. At the same time, the above criticisms are usually levied by those with jobs, with the critics excoriating the OWS crowd and proclaiming "they should just get a job." Those of us blessed with jobs at the moment, most of whom can look forward to decades and decades more of work with little additional economic incentive other than sheer survival and just keeping afloat (if we are fortunate) may have a right to have been a bit peeved at any inconvenience the OWS's Day of Action posed. But at the same time, anyone being honest with him or herself can't help but acknowledge that in your heart, you know they are right.
Also interesting to note how Commissioner Kelly and the Mayor have sullied the reputation New York's Finest by forcing them into the role of Goon. We passed a mob of cops in riot gear on lower Broadway, some of them looking so young that it appeared as though they had just ripped open the box containing their official-issue-NYPD-riot-helmet like it was a present under the Christmas tree. They knew they weren't fighting trained terrorists. Just a bunch of kids, seniors and unemployed salarymen. No surprise then, the violence. I am sure November 17 was a Rite of Passage for many of the young cops; the opportunity to unleash their aggression in acts of unchecked and often anonymous violence against unarmed protestors as a sign to the White Shirts and Higher Ups that they were willing to do anything in their desire to Move On Up in the organization. The Mayor rushed to the hospital to visit the cop who had a hand laceration as a result of a thrown bottle, while, on NY1, Deputy Mayors Wolfson and Halloway stone-walled host Erroll Lewis who dared to question the arrests of reporters and the exclusion of the media from the Battle of Zuccotti Park. (see NY Press Club Letter below)
The trope is that the kids who supported President Obama the first time around have abandoned him to apathy. Perhaps, but I wonder if many of those who were most fired up are now in the ranks of OWS around the country. Could that account in part for 44's lackluster support? There is an absence of leadership, political or economic. The sectors of society, private, non-profit, public, executive, legislative and judicial are all jumbled up and confused.
The Mayor, who is no doubt by now quite sick of his dollar-a-year-hobby as head of the largest, most wonderful city in the world, fearing the worst, may have been sincere in his desire to maintain order in the City at all costs.
However, for many New Yorkers struggling under the weight of an economic disaster not of their making, the worst has already happened and there is no sign of it abating any time soon.
--Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn
NY PRESS CLUB Letter to the Mayor and Police Commissioner
Dear Mr. Mayor and Police Commissioner Kelly:
On Tuesday morning, November 15th, as police officers acted to remove Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, several reporters protested that they were the victims of harassment and that their rights under the First Amendment were violated.
A few were arrested or detained.
The actions of some police officers were not consistent with the long-established relationship between the NYPD and the press.
The brash manner in which officers ordered reporters off the streets and then made them back off until the actions of the police were almost invisible is outrageous.
We want the department to investigate the incidents involved in this crackdown on Zuccotti Park and we want assurances it won't happen again.
President, New York Press Club Foundation
Chairman, Freedom of the Press Committee
President, The New York Press Club