I’m back from my annual ballet trip to New York, and back to my computer. Along with four wonderful performances by American Ballet Theater I got to visit Park 51, the Islamic Center three blocks from Ground Zero (about which more soon), and Zuccotti Park, the home of Occupy Wall Street.
Zuccotti Park was a friendly place, surprisingly orderly, contrary to expectations from television. People sweeping, others staffing the free food tent, others reading or cheerfully chatting with visitors like me. There was a library, several pet dogs (apparently OWS is dog-, not cat-friendly) and a few baskets seeking donations. I saw lots of American flags and posters, but nothing ugly or much beyond run-of-the-mill progressive political ideas.
OWS aspired to being a good neighbor (photo): zero tolerance for alcohol, drugs, or abuse of people or public property. Everybody I saw seemed to be compliant with the proclaimed good neighbor policy.
But Mayor Bloomberg decided, reasonably enough, that Occupy Wall Street was becoming a nuisance and a threat to public health, and ordered the NYPD to evict the occupants from the park in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday. Most of OWS went peacefully, if sleepily; about 200 held their ground and were arrested. The park was cleared, cleaned, and the occupiers were readmitted, this time with tents and sleeping bags prohibited.
The police action may have reinvigorated a movement that had begun to bore the media and the public. Yesterday, the two-month anniversary of the start of the protest, the demonstrators sought more visibility by marching…well, sauntering to Wall Street, to the subways, and to the Brooklyn Bridge, where they walked along the pedestrian walkway, peacefully channeled away from the roadway by NYPD. There were more arrests, a few scuffles with police, and a few minor injuries—not big news even in New York, where the New York Times reported the days events on page A-24, with a page one photo.
What next for Occupy? I’ve written about the ethical issue of mass action in a democracy. The movement has changed public conversation in America: there’s more talk about the 99% and the 1%–the movement’s mantra, and that’s to the good. There’s still a danger that the protests will turn violent through miscalculation on one side or the other. If they do the public will turn against them and against their hopes for a less unequal America.
Tags: 99%, American Ballet Theater, ethics, good neighbor policy, Islamic Center, mass action, Mayor Bloomberg, New York Times, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Park 51, police action, zero tolerance, Zuccotti Park