Opinion: Bloomberg's Removal of OWS will Galvanize Occupy Everywhere

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 11:55 AM

Occupy Wall Street demonstrator Occupy Wall Street demonstrator (Flickr/kenstein)

Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg. You may have given the Occupy Wall Street movement - which you disdain, dismiss but have largely suffered - a boost of energy that time, weather and attrition had severely threatened.

Just hours after Adbusters had warned of how a prolonged occupation could exhaust the movement, the Mayor woke it up again.

First of all, the cowardly act of clearing the park in the middle of night, under the cover of dark and with no warning has made him a perfect villain. In contrast to his last effort to break up the Occupation, which brought 5,000 New Yorkers at dawn to stand in defense, this time the Mayor didn't give New Yorkers a chance to voice their opposition before sending in the NYPD with overwhelming force.

It's a reminder that as opposed to other politicians who simply defend the 1%, this politician IS the 1%.

Movements need villains and the Mayor just added himself to the likes of bank CEOs, fund-managing billionaires and Rupert Murdoch.

If the Mayor had just let time pass, OWS would have inherently changed, and the presence in the park would have diminished. Already, the preponderance of tents has made it less inviting to visiting supporters. The cold weather would mean a smaller, more intense and likely more radical crew would have remained - increasingly sick, sore and strained -- which would have caused tensions within the movement. With the first big snowfall, occupiers would have found themselves seeking a graceful evolution / exit strategy.

Instead, the Mayor has thrown fuel on the fire. Waking up to a rash of email action alerts, agitated tweets and passionate texts this morning showed me the movement is more energized. The protesters are likely to retake Zuccotti, or to start other camps. The Mayor could have kept it contained; now, he's opened a Pandora's Box that could send actions and confrontations a thousand directions.

Of course, this all presents a challenge for the movement itself. While the encampment at Zuccotti has been an inspirational symbol, the big debate isn't really about the park itself. It's about an economy that works for all, the hazards of wealth disparity, the crimes committed by Wall Street - all of which the Occupy Everywhere energy has propelled into the spotlight.

Since the start, it has been understood that the movement needs to find footing beyond Lower Manhattan - in legislation and ballot boxes, shareholder meetings and direct actions, media campaigns and everyday conversations.

In Zuccotti itself, the General Assembly spends more time on the difficult challenge of running a communal living environment than on political demands and actions. They need allies and the public at large to carry the message into action in a thousand directions.

Today, those allies and the public will be consumed with the debate about free speech and the right to assembly --important issues, to be sure, but only part of the overall vision of a fair and just society.

The challenge for the occupiers evicted in the night is to reclaim their space and their rights - and to continue this extraordinary experiment they've undertaken for two weeks. The challenge to all of us who sympathize with them and find inspiration in their actions is to make sure we -- the 99 percent - make our voices heard on every street, not just Wall Street, and in all halls, not just one park.

The challenge for Mayor Bloomberg and the 1% is the hardest of all: How to close Pandora's Box.

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."


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Comments [6]

Harrison Bergeron from NYC

It was time to leave the cocoon anyway.

The problems that have been brought to light by the Occupy movement have been many years in the making. At least for a generation -- probably longer. I can't think of how it would serve any positive purpose to camp out in the park for thirty years.

The mayor has actually done the Occupy movement a great service by forcing it to evolve into its next, more mature form.

Nov. 16 2011 11:33 PM

Seriously, what have the OWS have accomplished in the past 2 months? Have they created one job? Reduced the federal debt? Got a kid in college? The OWS was an exercise in futility that ended costing tons of much needed funds to the city and revenues to the business around the Park. Thanks a lot.

Nov. 16 2011 03:28 PM
Ellen from Zuccotti Park, OWS

I just heard a woman comment on NPR about Zuccotti park and OWS not taking up all of the public space, and that "park users" still have places to sit and enjoy the park.

This was not my experience last Saturday. Not only did the park smell and appear in shambles (not very welcoming to a park user), but there was a "OWS resident" pushing through the crowds of observers shouting "excuse me, excuse me...I actually live here!" (exact quote).

Sure there are some people who are welcoming onlookers, and even offering food (which they clearly have too much of), but if they really want to get the point out, then ALL protesters should be welcoming onlookers and visitors to the park.

On another note...I feel that Brookfield Properties are the ones who should have the final say in how their space is used. They are the owners, and they can make rules. I would not want someone telling me how to use my house, and who is and who is not welcome. But Brookfield Properties should also understand that it is becoming very necessary to put some of these rules into action, and to then enforce them as respectful and responsible owners to Zuccotti Park and the community.

Nov. 16 2011 11:42 AM

Marcia, nobody remembers protests, because they don't work. Nobody in America can remember past 6 months ago. They say, "Oh, people out there are pissed about this or that" and then forget as soon as they leave.

Constant visibility is the key, and it isn't achieved by protesting for 2 hours.

Nov. 15 2011 07:40 PM
Laurence from Brooklyn


Looking up the occupy wall st links on youtube I found that most of the initial links came from Russia:

Does anybody know why. Did I do a poor search. And i feel like a "commie-hunter" even asking the question.

Nov. 15 2011 05:56 PM
Marcia Monteiro from New York

I understand your thought but in reality the removal probably saved their time. By now they seemed to be stuck in the fact that staying would be a hazard and leaving by choice a defeat. At least by being removed this way you can express your thoughts and it almost seems that something was actually achieved. Activists should stick with the rallies and demonstrations. 'Occupying' (which is already a weird concept) has disaster written all over and let's face it, can't achieve that much with this subject matter. But it was a good run! I enjoyed the effort.

Nov. 15 2011 01:15 PM

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