Early Tuesday morning, New York police raided and evicted the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park in southern Manhattan. The behavior of the NYPD and the mayor’s office, in ordering this brazen action while blocking the press and the public from reporting on the eviction, is a disgraceful display of unnecessary force on a protest that for the most part has behaved lawfully and respectfully throughout its two-month existence.
The offered reasoning for the eviction? The same canard as the last time Bloomberg wanted to sweep away protesters: “public health and safety.” Never mind that Occupy Wall Street has continually cleaned the park itself, or that health experts who have visited the park have pronounced it sanitary, or that even Bloomberg could cite only one incident that threatened public safety in his statement about the eviction. No, such “facts” were turned away, just as the police sought to turn the media’s cameras elsewhere. All this while, as Matt Taibbi put it last week, “in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes.” Nobody arrested the bankers for pushing fraudulent loans and subprime mortgage investments, or the ratings agencies and government regulators that neglected their duties and helped Wall Street crash the global economy. But putting tents in a public park? Time to bring out the batons and pepper spray.
As hard as the NYPD and New York City’s government might try to obscure the truth though, one truth remains: At 1 a.m. this morning, in the heart of New York City, protesters exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly were swept away by the state, while that state also did all it could to prevent media coverage. No matter what one may think of the occupiers or their cause, nothing they’ve done justifies blockading the press or ignoring court orders. Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other New York leaders who ordered the eviction should take a long, hard look at their handling of the occupation. This morning’s action may not be what a police state looks like, but it’s certainly how one begins.
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”