We all know now that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators living in Zuccotti Park for almost two months were methodically uprooted by the NYPD Tuesday.
As I said before, I support the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I’m not sold on all the tactics. Chief among these is the persistent inclination of a couple hundred people to live all day and night in, what is by most accounts, not just a pretty shitty excuse for a park, but also a pretty arbitrary spot.
It’s been noted by lots of onlookers: Zuccotti Park is not even on Wall Street. The park itself has no meaning to banker types, and most New Yorkers hadn’t even heard of it before September 17. It was selected as the rallying point for OWS because it’s an open space in the Financial District.
And yet, all day Tuesday and into Wednesday, peeved protesters plotted to take it back, rising and then falling with judicial rulings on whether they could re-colonize it with their gear.
As the Times reported, “one protester, Nate Barchus, 23, said the eviction from Zuccotti Park was likely to galvanize supporters… ‘This,’ he said, referring to the early morning sweep, ‘reminds everyone who was occupying exactly why they were occupying.’ “
That’s exactly wrong!
Were you protesting your right to live in public squares for indefinite periods of time? Or to confront police brutality?
I think not. Rather, remember what compelled you to to show up in the first place. It was to garner attention and affect real social change in the financial-political complex.
Let it go, OWS. If you had been down there night in and night out, I’m sure it gained some sentimental resonance. But the point of the movement is not to get hypothermia from passing out on a slab of icy cold stone.
Furthermore, Mayor Bloomberg and the cops are being reasonable going forward. They aren’t denying you access to the park. They’re letting you back in! You can hang out there all day, you just can’t move in.
Public property is intended for wide use by the population. Being a member of that population does not entitle you to permanently move in to a place that you would otherwise have lunch with your friends at. If that were the case, I would have colonized the Great Lawn a long time ago.
Pick your battles. What does camping out and sleeping in a park really accomplish at this point?
Instead, be nimble. Evolve to be effective. Exerting all this effort on public space has hamstrung you. Focus your energy on confronting outsized income inequality and standing up to the unfair influence wealthy people and corporations have on your lives through power they exert on government.
There are now others joining me in adding to a consensus that living in public space is no longer a boon to the cause. In fact, Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that conceived of the OWS movement, concedes this, and proposes using this moment as a time to transition: “We clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next Spring.”
To piggyback off that, as I argued previously, the movement should change its name to emphasize what it is about. There is now evidence indicating that “Occupy Wall Street” does not test well, and that “The 99%” is the meme the public is sympathetic to and identifies with. You’re no longer occupying anyway. This is an ideal opportunity to regroup, rethink and rebrand.