Well, it finally happened last night. Police moved in and cleared Zuccotti Park in an operation carefully timed to begin after 1 am and happen overnight while America and Twitter were sleeping. I haven’t posted about Occupy Wall Street for a while now, mostly because enough other people were talking about it that I didn’t feel I had anything valuable to add. But I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share this morning:
1. Well over 3000 Occupy protesters have been arrested nationwide. I don’t think our vagrancy and jaywalking laws have gotten this good a workout since the Civil Rights era.
2. Several cities, not content to wait until people actually do anything to threaten public order before cracking down on them, have actually imposed curfews. Seriously. Curfews are now considered a legitimate response to peaceful protest. Even if you don’t’ support Occupy Wall Street, you ought to stop and think about that for a moment. Because personally the only time I can remember anyone talking about a curfew in North America was in The Hunger Games.
3. The docile public acceptance of the idea that “well, of course people aren’t allowed to sleep in public parks” is in itself a significant statement about the state of our civil liberties. I remember a time when it was an outrage in New York that the police were rounding up harmless homeless people and shipping them out of town instead of letting them sleep on park benches. And I remember when the new park benches appeared — you know, the ones with bars on them so you can’t sleep on them. But now all the park benches look like that and rounding up homeless people is just part of the job the NYPD do to keep the shopping districts nice for the tourists. Taking care of tourists trumps taking care of our own now. Just like the almightly dollar trumps real human beings in need. Or real human beings exercising their free speech rights. That’s not the New York I grew up in. And I’m not willing to let that piece of history go down the memory hole without a fight.
And one final thought that should scare anyone who cares about the future of our democracy silly — even if you don’t support the occupiers:
We now live in a nation where a corporation’s free speech rights include making unlimited anonymous political campaign donations, but citizens’ free speech rights do not include peaceful protest in parks paid for by our own tax dollars.