photo: Mat McDermott
I'm writing this as a pre-emptive post, one in which hopefully I'm proven to have overreacted.
If you haven't already heard, New York City major Bloomberg has announced that tomorrow morning Occupy Wall Street protestors camped out in Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park) will have to vacate so that the park can be cleaned. Similar tactics have been used in the past to stymie other protests (viz Bloombergville).The Mayor has said that provided the activists follow the rules (including "no lying down" and "no tarps or sleeping bags") they will be allowed back into the park post-cleaning.
The letter which explains the strange public-private nature of Liberty Plaza and the permitted uses. Via @BeyondTheChoir
However, I'm deeply skeptical about this promise. It frankly just seems like a word-splitting hedge on the Mayor's statements earlier in the week about not evicting protestors.
The Occupy Wall Streeters have called for a 6AM "eviction defense" on Friday to prevent the forced cleaning, instead putting out the call for cleaning supplies to do it themselves. All along it should be noted that there has been a sanitation working group maintaining the area.
If you're so inclined and upset enough, OWS is also asking that NYC residents call 311 "and tell Bloomberg to support our right to assemble and to not interfere with #OWS." If you're calling from outside New York, call 212-NEW-YORK and express a similar sentiment.
There's an ongoing discussion of what the protestors plan on doing over at Gothamist. Please read it.
The Mayor should remember that very nearly literally the whole world is watching this. Anyone who has seen any coverage of the event will have noticed the scores and scores of still and video cameras trained on OWS. There will be copious documentation of the cleaning and feared eviction. There is a long written record of the Mayor's statements on the protest. Should the protestors not be let back in, it will only seem like rank hypocrisy.
An eviction of OWS by the NYPD at the Mayor's orders will just show that Bloomberg is all for free speech, so long as it doesn't get in the way of business.
However, while this is an environmental publication -- and Mayor Bloomberg has generally been pretty good on environmental issues it must be said and we've said as much -- he should also remember that Occupy Wall Street is not just a protest about corporate excess and corporate greed and an economic system that is grossly corrupt and upended.
All of it is intrinsically an environmental issue as well, as Bill McKibben eloquently stated last Saturday, and eviction of OWS from Liberty Square will simply show that all the high talk about making New York City a greener city, making it a more environmentally aware institution, was just lip service.
All that was fine, as long as it didn't involved real change to the corporocratic status quo.
If Occupy Wall Street is not let back in to Liberty Plaza, shame on the Mayor. Shame on such small-minded, excessively technical word splitting. Shame.