Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Everywhere Thursday

(The faces of New York City policing - Ray Kelly looking like a Bond villain while clearing Liberty Square and a "white shirt" on the rampage during Tuesday morning's purge, via the NYTimes)

To commemorate the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and in response to the Bloomberg-ordered police raid on Liberty Square (which included the direct disobedience of a court order and has reduced a "public space" to a heavily-garrisoned police park), there is a huge slate of events planned for tomorrow around the city. Complete information can be found here for the whole city, and here for Brooklyn in particular.

There are hundreds of good reasons to take part tomorrow, but if you're sitting in Crown Heights and you need a reason to go, I offer these two:

1. We read a lot about how fast Crown Heights is changing/gentrifying/revitalizing/etc (on this blog as much as anywhere), but the fact remains that newcomers and longtime residents alike are hardly plutocrats. Walking down Franklin yesterday, I passed a woman who was saying to her friends, "I was priced out of Fort Greene, I was priced out of Clinton Hill, and pretty soon, I'll be priced out of this neighborhood." Moreover, regardless of whether you've been in Crown Heights 4 days or 40 years, you can't miss the ugly specter of massive inequality and a broken-to-nonexistent social safety net in Crown Heights, largely because Bloomberg et al have been all too happy to push poverty to the boroughs so that places like Zuccotti Park can remain spotless. It's an issue that affects all of us here, and it's one that the powers that be are only too happy to ignore unless its right under their noses, as it will be tomorrow.

2.. Police brutality (see the 2nd photo above) is an enormous problem in communities in Brooklyn, including Crown Heights. It's sad that it takes an occupation of a park near Wall Street to draw city- and nationwide attention to New York's paramilitary policing when city residents have been dealing with it on a daily basis for years, but still, it's good to have the issue on the table, as it most certainly will be tomorrow.


  1. Nice post. Your comments about poverty/income inequality and how it affects all of us in CH was very moving.

  2. I wanted to add the statement that our Council Member, Letitia James, signed:

    We, the undersigned members of the New York City Council, are dismayed by the late night eviction of the occupation of Wall Street. We condemn the violation of the First Amendment rights of the protesters. It is shameful to use the cover of darkness to trample on civil liberties without fear of media scrutiny or a public response.

    We are proud to be a part of the movement for economic and social justice and shared sacrifice sparked by Occupy Wall Street. We commend Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams, who demonstrated their solidarity by standing with protesters at Zuccotti Park last night. In the aftermath of the eviction, we reiterate our support and look toward the future.

    We know that the fight is far from over, and that last night’s events will only fuel the fire for change. We will march to hold the banks accountable and call for a fairer economy on November 17 and beyond.

  3. Funny, I thought the first amendment was about protecting speech, not illegal camping.

  4. Five freedoms are guaranteed by the First Amendment, the last two of which are a pretty good description of OWS (as well as the freedom of speech clause, of course):

    Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    The bounds of this sort of protest are continuously set and re-set by judicial decisions, legislation, and enforcement (which is to say, all three branches of government). What the Council is objecting to, undoubtedly, is Bloomberg's unilateral decision to storm Liberty Square without recourse to the politicians (many of whom talked him and Brookfield down the first time) who represent the 72% of New Yorkers who support OWS (as of the poll last week). As for the legality of the encampment, one judge initially ruled that the protest was legal and that the police had allow the protesters to return (a court order which Bloomberg and Ray Kelly ignored, and which, in theory, could have landed them both in jail for contempt of court).

    All of which is to say that characterizing OWS as "illegal camping" (despite what the New York Post would have you believe) misses the crucial questions of assembly and petition that are rightly at the heart of any judicial challenge. We might note, also, that Bloomberg did not seek an interpretation of the constitutionality of the city's actions before they were taken (though we shouldn't be surprised that the mayor or NYPD maintains an "act first, ask questions later" approach).

  5. The Occupy movement needs to change it's tactics in light of the restrictions that are presently placed on the Freedoms of Assembly and Speech.

    It should not expect more freedoms than have been afforded to other groups, and either learn from them or attempt revolution.

    I'm surprised they were allowed to stay so long in the park, andhope the city council is this supportive if a group they do not like attempts camping/occupying in NYC in the future.

  6. I don't know that squatting is protected as a 'right to assemble.'

    It's patently disingenuous (though not at all surprising) to engage in civil disobedience and then cry foul when authorities step in to restore order. It's like that old kids' game "I'm not touching you!" If they wanted attention to their cause, they got it. They wanted free speech, they got it. They wanted to get locked up and kicked out, they got that, too.

    The mayor (and police, and the people who live and work in the neighborhood) were exceptionally patient, and haven't treaded on any right to assembly as far as the courts are concerned. Last I checked, Zucotti Park was still open to them, provided they abide by regulations.

  7. "They were protesting, so they asked for it" is the new "she wore a short skirt, so she asked for it"

  8. "They were protesting, so they asked for it" is the NEW "she wore a short skirt, so she asked for it"


    Hasn't this dynamic between specific methods of protest and police always been in place?

    "If you make someone an opponent they will treat you accordingly. Likewise, if someone is actively looking for an opponent, there is a probability you will be treated like an opponent regardless of your actions"

    There is a reason that organizations like Make the Road, Move On, Code Pink, Unions, Working Families Party, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Planned Parenthood and others avoid tactics like those of OWS: They wish to avoid arrests and violence because it detracts from their goals.

    The organizers of such groups know that they can not control rogue protesters or police, and take steps to mitigate the chances of violence ....from both sides.

    I look forward to the next OWS - police playdate: December 10th

  9. I was gonna post a longer comment about the history of assembly and "occupation" (Bonus Marchers, sit-down strikes, etc) and the ways in which these things have made a significant impact on the way we understand our rights and freedoms today, but I doubt I'm convincing either of you with that. Instead, let's fact-check and probe some of this logic:

    "The mayor (and police, and the people who live and work in the neighborhood) were exceptionally patient, and haven't treaded on any right to assembly as far as the courts are concerned." (Eastbloc).

    Except for the part where they IGNORED A COURT ORDER ( Or the part where they dropped off released criminals at the park ( and then claimed OWS was sheltering criminals ( despite the fact that they turned the alleged rapist over to police (who were seeking the opportunity to shut down the occupation, unsurprisingly). But sure, other than that, they were very patient (pepper-spraying non-threatening marchers in broad daylight is the height of patience, after all).

    "It should not expect more freedoms than have been afforded to other groups" (MikeF)

    I'm pretty sure the entire point is to challenge the settled order. Besides, freedom isn't porridge - it's not doled out from somewhere on high (and when it is doled out, it's certainly not in equal portions, if we must preserve this tortured metaphor), but negotiated by all three branches of government (courts, legislatures, and executors/enforcers) and citizens every day. OWS was doing just that.

    "There is a reason that organizations like Make the Road, Move On, Code Pink, Unions, Working Families Party, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Planned Parenthood and others avoid tactics like those of OWS: They wish to avoid arrests and violence because it detracts from their goals." (MikeF)

    Labor (unions and WFP) has rallied several times in support of OWS, and several labor leaders were arrested last Thursday ( FUREE has lent their space to Occupy Brooklyn, and have brought a sizable contingent to marches. I'm getting daily emails from MoveOn (and a zillion other such groups) about OWS stuff. Most, if not all, of these groups engage, strategically, in civil disobedience when they think it benefits their goals. OWS uses a different mix of tactics, but they're hardly anathema to these "legitimate" lefty groups you're contrasting with them.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm going to keep disagreeing with you both until you produce some better evidence. Happy Turkey Day!

  10. I'm getting those emails too.

    There seems a pretty stark difference in their tactics and rhetoric from those of OWS to me.

    When OWS gets their act together, I'll associate myself with them. Hopefully the playdate scheduled for Dec 10th will be a move toward revolution OR smarter tactics.

    So far the show by the police and OWS has been pretty depressing

  11. Everything I've read, including the link you cited, seems to indicate the court order came after they were evicted, and they were allowed to return (minus sleeping bags and tents). So I'm not sure where you see them violating it.

    As for "the part where they dropped off released criminals at the park", even the article you cited doesn't make this claim. It says (allegedly) that police (who? Corrections officers?) told inmates being released from Riker's to go to Zucotti. There's no evidence this happened, and even if it did, it would be very hard to determine who is accountable -- after all, police are a very large and diverse group with each their own politics and sense of humor. There's _certainly_ no evidence for any _organized_ ploy to "drop off" criminals at Zucotti. The claim is preposterous, you go even further in conjecture than the sources you've provided, which in themselves aren't exactly of journalistic quality.

    The thing about groups that identify themselves as left (or right, for that matter) is that they tend to see in everything the machinations of the world view they espouse. And so simple functioning of city bureaucracies (which are far from perfect and certainly worthy of analysis and criticism) in their eyes become a dark, conspiratorial cabal, with billionaire mayor at the helm, cackling in between instructions to his minions to try and undermine this OWS thing, ostensibly because he is quaking in his boots at this display of class consciousness.

    The matter is far simpler than that -- in spite of the fact that the protesters are a public nuisance, the mayor (who is a liberal at heart) has consistently tended to land on the side of their constitutional rights until it became untenable, from the standpoints of public health, law enforcement, and overall fiduciary responsibility to the citizens and taxpayers of the city.

    As a libertarian who is frequently at odds with the mayor's decision, in his handling of this issue I applaud him fully. Somehow I doubt that puts me in any sort of 1% bracket.

  12. MikeF, I'm still confused as to how you think there's a wide gulf between (in particular) labor and OWS when the president of SEIU is getting arrested at OWS events. The fact that the mainstream left has been courting OWS (and not, for the most part, the other way around) seems to suggest that they see something you don't in OWS.

    Eastbloc, you didn't look at the timestamp on the article or the original court order. A Manhattan Supreme Court judge issued that order Tuesday morning, but Bloomberg ordered the park closed (in direct violation of that order) until the city had time to appeal. Can the executive ignore the judiciary (as, say, Lincoln did during the Civil War)? It's a good question in turbulent times, but if you're seeking adherence to the settled order (as you seem to be), it's unquestionably a violation.

    As for police/corrections officers directing released criminals to Liberty Square, that's reported in the New York Review - sorry if you don't think they're credible, but I disagree. You can choose not to believe these reports, but that's a choice about interpretation - the reports are there. I didn't say anything about an organized conspiracy, but rather used this to highlight the tension between accusations of criminality by the mayor et al and the conduct of (at least some, unless you just want to disbelieve reports) officers directing criminals there. I realize accusing the left of conspiracy groupthink allows you discredit their critiques, but it's just empty rhetoric.

    You don't need to be in the 1% to support the settled order, as you do in this case. Just don't cloak it in some language about adherence to the law when you don't mind Bloomberg ignoring a court order or cops/corrections officers directing released convicts to Liberty Square.

  13. I'll consider identifying myself an OWS member once it has a leader, clear identity, and clearer commitment to non-violence. Until then, I have a hard time distancing the "organization" from the problem idiots and revolutionaries that are desperately looking for a stage to act out on.

    In the meantime, I will regard their "actions" as being similar to monthly shows that remind me of shock radio or the Jerry Springer show: I'll tune in if I want to watch people not listen to each other, beat the crap out of one another, and generally act badly.

    Fear not, I am able to see a wide gulf between this nonsense and the variety of non-violent civil disobedience being practiced by sympathizers such as Cornell West, Jermaine Williams, and the folks in SEIU.

    Fun photo of two good looking guys: