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.”
Similar concerns have been raised elsewhere. In New York City, violent crime is on the rise in some parts of town, leading police to speculate that one reason for the increase is the diversion of so many cops from across the city to the Occupy Wall Street effort. In one two-week period last month, shootings in New York were up 154 percent over the same period a year ago.
And here in Los Angeles, the Occupy L.A. movement has seen some troubling incidents as well. In a single day, LAPD officers arrested two Occupiers for felony assault. A woman was hauled in for striking a man with a tent pole, and another was charged with setting another camper’s clothes on fire (though it wasn’t clear if the clothes were being worn at the time). Both incidents took place on City Hall’s south lawn, directly across the street from LAPD headquarters.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said the Occupiers cannot be allowed to remain camped outside City Hall “indefinitely,” and LAPD officers have been told to prepare their uniforms and equipment for the anticipated confrontation when the camp is cleared out. But before that happens, Mayor Villaraigosa, like his fellow mayors similarly situated, will have to stiffen his spine and give the order to see the law enforced, this despite knowing that the repercussions — and of course there will be repercussions — will be his to own.
And in case those politicians are still so deluded as to believe that the Occupy Wall Street movement and its kindred satellites across the country are just harmless, peaceful protests against “corporate greed” and what have you, John Nolte over at Big Government has done us all a service by compiling the Occupy Wall Street Rap Sheet, which as of this writing stands at 204 news stories documenting incidents of “sexual assault, violence, vandalism, anti-Semitism, extortion, perversion, and lawlessness” occurring in and around the various Occupy encampments. The list, as Nolte points out, is far from comprehensive, but one gets the sense it will grow much longer before this nonsense is put to an end. It might even take another death or two before the various occupied parks and plazas are liberated.
I most fervently hope to avoid the looming confrontation with the Occupiers here in Los Angeles, not least for fear of the reported lice infestation. But if I’m so unfortunate as to be called to help clear the lawns at City Hall, I’ll be reporting on it right here. Stay tuned.