Analysis | The Mayor's Migraine: The Wall Street Protests
Monday, October 24, 2011
It is at times like this that Mayor Michael Bloomberg must be wondering, yet again, why it was that he wanted a third term.
The Occupy Wall Street protest is a headache for him. The world is watching and he is the man in charge of the city. If he antagonizes the protesters, he could wind up with a riot on his hands. If he lets them continue to protest, he looks weak and indecisive.
There is no simple solution, as the mayor said himself when he noted recently on his WOR radio show that "it's just not so easy; you can't just walk in and say, 'Hey, you're outta here.' " And even if the city did eject the protesters, he asked, where would they go then, since they do not appear inclined to head home. To Union Square? The Great Lawn in Central Park? The Sheep Meadow?
It is clear that Bloomberg is no fan of the goings on in Zuccotti Park, or of street protest in general. He is, above all, a pragmatist. Get things done, don't just talk about or complain — that has always been his attitude. Civil liberties do not rate high with him when they bump up against practicalities.
For instance, he defends the police department's stop and frisk policy: it is a deterrent to crime, and it works, he argues. and he makes no apologies for the often-criticized police actions at the Republican Convention in 2004. The city's job was to keep order, and anyone who protested at the convention should have realized that arrest was possible. Don't like surveillance cameras taking photos on street corners? Get over it — they work, he says.
Bloomberg was never a march-in-the streets type — whatever his political attitudes toward the underlying issue. He did not march during the civil rights movement or against the Vietnam War. Action — getting things accomplished — has always been his goal and he is not inclined to believe in the efficacy of public protests or flower power.
In this case, he clearly empathizes with the people who live and work near Zuccotti Park and have had enough of the mess, the noise and the disruption.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters live in an alternate universe, which leaves the mayor where no leader wants to be: looking for a way to resolve a very volatile situation that is playing out in the public eye. Maybe he will be lucky and nature — the approach of a New York winter — will help the mayor out.