The police, whom many occupiers see as the enemy and who work under a mayor who’s made no secret of his distaste for the occupiers, have little reason to help them maintain order, and rarely seem to have entered the park over the last week for anything short of an assault. When officers have gone in, a wave of people carrying drugs (or with other reasons to fear arrest) moves away from them while others circle tightly around, cameras out. Even when organizers have requested their intervention, police enter to a mixed chorus of “brutality” and “pig” calls side by side with chanted reminders that “you are the 99%.”So some unemployed people are welcome and others aren't. Well, this is what happens when you have an amorphous mission that united only by being unhappy about something.
But while officers may be in a no-win situation, at the mercy of orders carried on shifting political winds and locked into conflict with a so-far almost entirely non-violent protest movement eager to frame the force as a symbol of the oppressive system they’re fighting, the NYPD seems to have crossed a line in recent days, as the park has taken on a darker tone with unsteady and unstable types suddenly seeming to emerge from the woodwork. Two different drunks I spoke with last week told me they’d been encouraged to “take it to Zuccotti” by officers who’d found them drinking in other parks, and members of the community affairs working group related several similar stories they’d heard while talking with intoxicated or aggressive new arrivals.
The NYPD’s press office declined to comment on the record about any such policy, but it seems like a logical tactic from a Bloomberg administration that has done its best to make things difficult for the occupation — a way of using its openness against it.
“He’s got a right to express himself, you’ve got a right to express yourself,” I heard three cops repeat in recent days, using nearly identical language, when asked to intervene with troublemakers inside the park, including a clearly disturbed man screaming and singing wildly at 3 a.m. for the second straight night.
“The first time I’ve heard cops mention our First Amendment rights,” cracked one occupier after hearing a lieutenant read off of that apparent script.
“A lot of you people smell,” a waggish cop shot back later after an occupier asked if he might be able to help find more appropriate accommodations for a particularly pungent and out-of-sorts homeless man.
“The police are saying ‘it’s a free for all at Zuccotti so you can go there,’” said Daniel Zetah, a member of several working groups including community affairs. “Which makes our job harder and harder because the ratio is worse and worse.”
Organizers, who have already cut kitchen hours and taken other steps to discourage freeloading, are hoping that the winter cold will help clear out hangers-on and give the active participants time to consolidate their gains to date and refine their structures (including a bid to shift some power from the general assembly comprised of the semi-random group of people who show up on the Broadway steps each evening to the working group members who have invested time and effort in the occupation) to ensure the park maintains a high ratio of political participants to pilgrims drawn to a free-food, cop-free Eden.
“We’re in a limited physical space,” said Zetah, “and we’re past carrying capacity. By including these people we’re creating a space where other people, and particularly women, don’t feel safe — and by default you’re excluding them.”
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Why are OWS protesters upset that some "bums" have started hanging out at Zuccotti Park? It's not like they have legal title to the area. Why are they irritated that the police aren't removing the people they consider undesirable? If they are supposed to represent the 99%, shouldn't everyone, except millionaires, be welcome?
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:50 AM