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November 15, 2011 05:48 PM UTC

#OccupyWallStreet Gets "The Mike Hancock Special"

  • by: Colorado Pols

The New York Times reports overnight:

Hundreds of police officers early Tuesday cleared the park in Lower Manhattan that had been the nexus of the Occupy Wall Street movement, arresting dozens of people there after warning that the nearly two-month-old camp would be “cleared and restored” but that demonstrators who did not leave would face arrest…

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning, had issued a statement explaining the reasoning behind the sweep. “The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day,” the mayor said in the statement. “Every since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with” because the protesters had taken over the park, “making it unavailable to anyone else.”

“I have become increasingly concerned – as had the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties – that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community,” Mr. Bloomberg said. He added that on Monday, Brookfield asked the city to assist in enforcing “the no sleeping and camping rules.

“But make no mistake,” the mayor said, “the final decision to act was mine.”

Last night’s police action to clear Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan of Occupy Wall Street protesters comes after demonstrators reportedly threatened an escalation of their protest activity, seeking this week to directly impede the operations of stock exchanges and financial services corporations in the area. It comes days, and in some cases weeks after similar tent encampments were cleared from other cities including Denver.

In Denver this weekend, another large Occupy Denver protest march occurred, after which a smaller group again clashed with police over tents and other personal belongings in Civic Center Park. Further attempts to block traffic on Broadway and erect tents in the park in defiance of police orders resulted in several dozen more arrests on Saturday and Sunday.

As we’ve said, the longer the Occupy Wall Street protests are dominated by clashes with police over camping in city parks, as opposed to their message against economic inequality, the harder it will be to retain their level of public support. In Denver, many protesters seem to have been lured completely off message, where violent clashes against police and defense of squalid tent encampments have almost entirely subsumed the movement’s stated goals. Occupy Denver appears to have split into two factions: those advocating for continued police confrontation and attempts to camp in the park, and others who realize that this fixation is seriously harming them.

We have said from the beginning that the focus of these protests must change from unsustainable “occupation” in tents–a symbol of confrontation that can nonetheless be used to turn the housed “99%” against them–to organization and outreach beyond the limited group of people willing (or forced by homelessness) to camp out in winter. It was always the case that these protests would need to adapt to winter weather when camping is neither safe nor practical. And we’re sorry: you can’t have hundreds of people camping out for months in the middle of the city without a plan for sanitation. The public health consequences are real.

Bottom line: it’s a test of this movement’s staying power, folks. The police in New York, as in Denver, are carrying out lawful orders. Occupy Denver’s Saturday marches continue to draw large crowds, the vast majority of which peacefully disperse well before enforcement action begins. The ability to adapt through the winter, putting a stop to continuous marginalization by police enforcing the law, is the only way these protests will survive until the spring.


22 thoughts on “#OccupyWallStreet Gets “The Mike Hancock Special”

  1. From The NY Daily News:

    Court order: City can’t keep Occupy Wall Street protesters and their stuff out of Zuccotti Park

    Hours after baton-wielding cops cleared Occupy Wall Street protesters and their tents from

    Zuccotti Park, a judge signed a order Tuesday saying the demonstrators can return with their stuff.

    Mayor Bloomberg said the city was trying to clarify the restraining order signed by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings, a former civil liberties lawyer.

    In the meantime, Zuccotti – which briefly reopened after a quick

    scrub-down – would be closed to the public, Bloomberg said.

    Occupy Wall Street protesters had already moved to another public space, Duarte Square, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., though it was unclear if they planned to set up camp there.

  2. A march every Saturday afternoon won’t accomplish much. The occupy movement has managed to capture the political spotlight and that is gigantic. As to what is the most effective next move, I don’t think any of us know for sure.

    The fundamental problem we face is this is not a political issue to be solved by bringing pressure on the politicians. The politicians in both parties follow the orders of their owners on Wall St. Pressuring the true powers that be is something that has not been done before.

    But in terms of the encampments being illegal, many of the civil rights demonstrations also broke the law from impeding access to streets to sitting in the front of the bus. The fact that the protests violate vagrancy laws is not an argument against the effectiveness of the practice.

    1. How is camping in a park pressuring financial institutions? The fact is that big banks don’t really serve many of the Occupy protesters so why would they change their business practices to accommodate people who aren’t customers?

      That’s where I think the Occupy movement falls short. Until they either make this a political issue that truly transcends partisan politics, meaning they are out protesting in front of the White House, or figure out a way to start impacting the balance sheets of major corporations, the Occupy movement will change nothing. The politicians follow the orders of their owners on Wall St because we, the 99%, allow them to.

      The civil rights movement gained traction through massive boycotts to show businesses that the ultimate power lies in the consumer. The Occupy movement hasn’t figured this out yet.  

      1. “Pressuring Financial Institutions”:

        40,000 people move their money to credit unions in a single day as part of the OWS movement.

        “Protesting in front of the White House”

        Occupy Protesters begin a 2-wek long march from New York City to Washington D.C. Destination: The White House

        “Massive boycotts”

        Occupy Wall St. Organizing “Boycott Black Friday”

        “The Occupy movement hasn’t figured this out yet”

        The evidence suggests otherwise.

        1. Those are good first steps. But I think ultimately it will take more than simply shifting your checking account from one bank to another. Banks don’t make much off those accounts anyways. They make their money from issuing mortgages, car loans, business loans, and, most of all, capital investments. You have to hit them in those areas and on a massive scale, i.e. mass withdraw of 401ks.  

          1. if bank’s don’t have a depositor base they have to purchase funds on the commercial market at a higher cost.

            The traditional way banks make money is through the lending spread, or Net Interest Margin, the difference between what they pay for reserves/deposits and what they make on loans.  Retail deposits are cheap.

            Granted banks have moved away from NIM as the major driver towards fees, origination and non traditional financial products, but depending on the bank NIM is still pretty important.

            1. Cunninjo is right that banks lose money off of the kinds of deposits that were getting pulled out. Credit unions don’t have the kind of upkeep that big banks do, so it’s a win for them, but unless more people pull their money out–especially the customers who actually purchase their products–then it’s bad publicity for the big banks, but not nearly the kind of financial drain that occupy supporters are making it out to be.

              And I agree with you, Dan, that it’s inexcusable to selectively enforce the 1st amendment. But I also agree with Car 31 that the message is getting muddled, and it’s more about the rights of people to protest (more specifically, whether “occupying” or camping out for an extended period of time is a legitimate form of protest) than it is about changing a broken financial system and correcting social and economic inequality.

              I hope that their rights are upheld, and I’m glad that someone as smart as you is taking up their cause, but I am pessimistic about their chances of actually achieving their (initially) clear and noble goals.

              I will say it would sure help a lot if they stopped getting beaten and pepper sprayed constantly.

  3. I am deeply disturbed by the recent actions here in Denver.  So disturbed that I am willing to come out of hole.

    Pols is correct that Occupy Denver has been pulled off message, but I am more concerned by the government escalation than I am about a couple of unruly anarchists.

    Now the government’s escalation has crossed in to clearly unconstitutional territory.  Selective enforcement of laws to suppress content based speech is as unconstitutional as it gets.

    The police are now ticketing people who slow down to give money to Occupy Denver protestors, ticketing people who sit down in the park during the day and generally harassing people in an effort to suppress speech.

    This is no longer about income inequality or bank regulation, it is more fundamental.  Do individuals who cannot afford to buy a newspaper or fund a political campaign have any 1st amendment rights at all.

    I will have more later

    1. Because we have a court system for a reason. Take the city and the state to court for violating your rights. Or, how about you start a media campaign against the mayor and Governor. Rioting in the streets will only damage your credibility and hurt the small businesses downtown. You know, those small businesses that compete against the Wall St corporations. You should be supporting them and boycotting big corporations.  

      1. The problem with OWS is they let the protest split.

        One one side is the conversation about civil rights and the ability to protest the government – I believe that is what Danny is talking about.

        On the other side is the message of OWS, which is utterly lost because of the way they are deciding to protest.

        OWS may be the beginning of something, but the occupations won’t last, not only because of local and state laws preventing the occupations, but because sitting in parks isn’t going to generate the sympathy of the masses to create the type of crisis necessary for social change.

        1. And I don’t think it’s wise for them to continue occupying the parks. The general public is getting burned out on these protests already. Periodic demonstrations where you can plan ahead and really organize a large mass of people will garner much more attention and cooperation from the government. In between demonstrations OWS folks should be hitting the ground building support both at a grassroots level and within the political system. I hate to say it, but they should look at what the Tea Party as done.  

          1. it is funded by corporations.

            Until you find corporations that want to limit the power of corporations, increase bank regulation and decrease income inequality, OWS will be hard pressed to follow the tea party model.

            second it doesn’t matter for 1st amendment purposes if their strategy is wise.  There is no wisdom test to the 1st amendment.

            1. I am no supporter of the tea party, but I have spoken with some of the leading tea party organizers in Colorado about how they built their group. I can assure you they did not receive corporate funding. They built their following through social media just like OWS. In fact, the TP used many of the organizing techniques used by the Obama campaign in 2008 – respect, empower, and include. The difference is the TP folks understood from the beginning that you have to attack the political system. Rather than camp out in parks for months on end they disrupted town hall meetings and challenged incumbents to primaries.

              A politician’s number one goal is to stay in power. The moment it becomes more politically advantageous to stop begging for corporate donations and start serving the 99% they will do so.

              1. I don’t know that the ODenver people will ever be able to organize.  They are averse to leaders and some are averse to organization period.

                However, the civil rights question is my immediate concern and it is separate, and equally important, from/to the substance of the protest.

                1. Can you imagine if the civil rights or women’s rights movements didn’t have leaders and organization? They would have gone nowhere. Having leaders is not bad so long as you choose good leaders. Having strong leaders helps reduce inner-group conflict and keeps the movement on message. It also gives your message a public face.

                  I think having a leader would also help with your first amendment concerns because people will be more sympathetic if they can relate to an individual person. Take the Scott Olsen incident in Oakland for example.  

      2. 1. it takes money to access the court system

        2. it takes money to have a media campaign

        3. there has been no rioting in Denver, there have been a lot of riots in Denver (most of them sports riots), but there is more crowd violence on your average Friday night downtown than there has been at Occupy Denver.  The Police are coming dressed for a riot and randomly using less than lethal force. However, it is not the issue I am talking about.

        4. boycotts? did you hear about the whole move your money to local credit union thing?

        If you are saying that the only people with money should be able to exercise their 1st amendment rights, I disagree.

        Again this is a first amendment violation and I wouldn’t care if it was people protesting that Denver didn’t have a UFO commission.  Violating the 1st amendment by selective enforcement of the law is a fundamental threat th

        1. You can file a civil rights suit against the state and have the filing fee waived if you can show financial need. And even so, with the thousands of people out protesting you can probably gather a couple hundred dollars for the filing fee.

          Also, the movement seems to have done a pretty good job getting the media’s attention without having to pay money. Use your access to the media to go after individual politicians whether it’s Mayor Hancock or Gov. Hickenlooper.

          The credit union migration and black friday boycott are a good start. It will take much more though. Support the local businesses that compete against major corporations whether they are retailers, restaurants, banks, grocery stores, etc.

          1. They do not do it simply as a formality.  In fact, I have watched them deny waivers to homeless people because they have no proof of income because they do not have paychecks or file taxes.

            Discovery, motions, depositions, cost money–I know.

            I grant you a bit on the other points, but the press has been extremely biased here in Denver only the Westword has covered OD with any balance at all.

        2. I heard on TV just a little while ago, a big city mayor, some lady, say that she was on a conference call with 17 other mayors this afternoon. This is a co-ordinated effort.

          If that isn’t selective…what is?

  4. One day America woke up to pictures like this:

    And that is what got America focused on civil rights. They didn’t read of a long list of requests for equality. They saw brutal violence against peaceful citizens. Every time the police go in and crack some heads people see the bankers sending their minions in to beat up a peaceful group that is asking for fairness.

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