As the Wall Street “occupation” concludes its first month, some important questions have yet to be answered by demonstrators. For one, what do they want? I put the question to some of the organizers and continued to get the platitudes we’ve been continually hearing.
In reality, keeping the movement as an intellectual moving target makes it more appealing, and the minute it declares a preference, it could be put in a media box and perhaps put away completely. The hard part for the movement is to keep it relevant, and no doubt they will continue marches and stunts.
The next question: What about the more than $3 million (and counting) spent on police overtime? When I mentioned that police were essentially “babysitting” the demonstrators, I got a surprise answer from an Occupy Wall Street (OCW) spokesperson — he agreed with me! He said he saw no reason for the police to babysit them anymore, and that the police should just leave. Good answer, but it evades an essential fact — the police have been necessary for crowd management and occasionally making arrests.
The spokesperson said that any attempt to move the demonstrators out of the park would be the equivalent of “trampling on their first amendment rights.” Hmmm. The park rules are complex. It’s privately owned by Brookfield Properties, but by prior agreement with the city, it must be open to the public 24/7. However, Mayor Bloomberg is probably on firm legal ground when he says that there is no constitutional right to sleeping in a park overnight.
Next question: What about the rest of the public and their rights? How can people in the neighborhood use it, for let’s say, lunch, when it’s already taken? Answer from a spokesperson: The public is not only welcome, but he said they will even feed them, too! Nice touch, but I countered that entering the park in its current condition is the equivalent of barging into someone’s living room (and not necessarily a clean one).
Another question: Would a Tea Party crowd doing the same things as these folks be tolerated? The spokesperson said OCW has “many Tea Partiers, Republicans and even Conservatives.” I must admit I did not take a poll of demonstrators on their political parties, but I’ve yet to meet a single right-winger here in four weeks of coverage. (Important caveat: Ron Paul supporters have been here, but Paul, a Republican in name only, can certainly be characterized as a libertarian.)
Final question: How long do you intend to stay? The answer: indefinite. Protesters tell me they may even occupy Central Park for a few days next month. But city rules are clear — no sleep-overs in the park. So another showdown looms. Will Mayor Bloomberg blink? Stay tuned.