Now that these Occupy Wall Street people have been at their occupation for however long it’s been, what’s next?
No one seems to know, but whatever the denouement that awaits in the final act of this drama, it will be police officers who will be asked to bring the curtain (and the tents) down. For people trying to live and work around the encampments, that day can’t come soon enough.
It seems that the “99 percent” label one so often hears doesn’t quite reflect the movement’s true scope, and that some larger segment of the population is growing weary of the ongoing garden parties taking place in public parks and other open spaces across the country. In Lower Manhattan, Occupiers are wearing out their welcome at those businesses that heretofore had tolerated or even abetted the protest. Being down for the cause is all well and good, but when the paying customers avoid your shop or restaurant out of fear of sharing space with the hygienically challenged cast of characters headquartered at Zucotti Park, well even the most socially conscious have to pay heed to the bottom line.
Which is what happened in Oakland, Calif., two weeks ago, when business owners near Frank Ogawa Plaza, where Occupy Oakland is encamped, made the outrageous request that the city’s authorities simply enforce the law and restore order to the downtown area by removing the protesters. Mayor Jean Quan, as feckless a politician as one is likely to find, directed police officers to do just that, resulting in a violent confrontation when some protesters refused to budge. The plaza was cleared with no little effort, but the ensuing furor inspired in Quan a change of heart. She directed that the protesters be allowed to return, guaranteeing that any future effort to remove them will be met with even more violence.
And what will it take to get all those mayors and city council members, all the weak-kneed Jean Quans and all the others who have been cowed into submission by the rabble camped outside their office windows, what will it take to get them to act? As they say, it’s all fun and games until someone gets killed.
And now someone has. On Thursday, a man was shot and killed at Frank Ogawa Plaza, though it was unclear as to whether the victim was a member of the Occupy Oakland movement. It was the 101st murder recorded in Oakland so far this year. The union that represents Oakland’s police officers issued a letter to the protesters on Friday, bringing an interesting twist to that now tiresome 99 percent theme. “Our officers are the 99 percent struggling in Oakland neighborhoods every day to contain the 1 percent who rob, steal, rape and murder our law-abiding citizens,” the letter said. “The Occupy Oakland protest, now 30 days old, is taking our police officers out of Oakland neighborhoods and away from protecting the citizens of Oakland.”