Yes, the title refers to today’s eviction of the Occupy protesters from Zuccotti Park, not pork by-products or Charlie Parker.
Today was a pivotal one, and there is little question the decision to evict reiterates a key point made by protestors and other critics of the current economic structure: the one-percent, in this case both the board at Brookfield Properties who oversee the park, and former equity trader at Salomon Brothers Mayor Bloomberg indeed are remote, insular and out-of-touch with the world outside their delimited social and economic circle.
One can reasonably infer from comments from the mayor himself, and by statements issued by the Brookfield board that this is not a group of people simpatico with the 99% movement. Therefore, the decision by Brookfield to create and insist upon enforcement of new rules to prevent the occupation, and by Bloomberg to act upon the decision in a gratuitously brutal fashion were very ill considered to say the least, and self-defeating for those parties in the end. Indeed, they have mightily reiterated the protestors’ essential point that the whims of an economic elite are expressed on a quotidian basis throughout the body politic with little regard for the concerns of the bulk of the nation’s citizens.
In fact, those overseeing the park at Brookfield Properties were not compelled to make any such decision, and while the legal issues are murky regarding privately owned public spaces, and a judge has for the moment upheld the company’s choice and presumed right to enforce a set of rules (including a prohibition on tents or camping or permanent structures) they might have chosen to graciously allow the movement its home, acknowledging the social significance of the burgeoning movement rather than illustrating what can only be perceived as elite, rarefied and petty concerns disconnected from those of their fellow citizens. It is a demonstration of power with an arrogance and blitheness and oppressiveness associated with oligarchs, once again making themselves the point the occupy movement has been attempting to make about them.
And as a matter of record, while Brookfield Properties oversees the park, the park’s origin, like that of many other privately owned public spaces in New York and elsewhere, is an arrangement by which the city makes various concessions to the real estate concern’s interests, in the area of zoning ordinances and other matters for instance, in exchange for a fully accessible public space. So no matter how a court adjudicates the murky legalities of the situation, in civic and moral terms this space belongs to the people. The public does not enjoy access to the park due to some benevolent gesture on the part of Brookfield Properties but rather because it has in effect been paid for by citizens of New York City.
Until today the occupation movement appeared to be slightly languishing as it calculated and planned its next steps. Most sympathizers outside the movement agreed that the movement was in need of a more concentrated focus, more concrete political demands and another level of activism and actions. Today’s eviction, following similar needless actions by cities across the country simply helped to kick that elevation of strategy into higher gear, and indeed has invigorated and electrified the movement by some great magnitude without a doubt.
Bloomberg, despite the court’s decision to side with Brookfield Properties has a great deal to answer for tonight. What’s one to think of a presumably media savvy pol such as Mayor Bloomberg seemingly oblivious to the age of the iphone, sending a paramilitary police force to brutishly quash a peaceful encampment, producing iconographic images of anger and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of sympathizers and perhaps others converted by the images themselves? As Deep Throat pointed out to Bob Woodward about the Nixon administration, “These aren’t very bright guys.” If you need affirmation that money and power do not equal brains, here you have it in vivid colors.
Bloomberg surely will have to answer for the media blackout enforced by blunt force, numerous journalists injured and many arrested, rendering associations with Arab spring and Tahrir Square the Occupy movement previously could only dream about. This brings up the other very troubling aspect of today’s operation, the reported coordinated evictions by 18 American cities in cooperation with Homeland Security and the FBI. Again, if you wished to make the point that America remains a democracy in name only, while in fact government at every level operates at the behest of an entrenched, arrogant and greedy power structure, you could not have made it better than city governments and the federal security bureaucracy made today with this coordinated antagonism against a peaceful uprising.
And here’s the most egregious and for them self-defeating failure of understanding on the part of anti-Occupy sentiment as expressed by city governments, police, the federal government or insular real estate companies. While the protestors may be subsumed under some sloppy heading of hippies or ne’er do wells by the misperceiving powers that be, this is a movement that comprises and has the ear and interest of many powerful intellectual voices, artistic, academic, and journalistic. And those voices are going to be articulating and amplifying what they are witnessing, and today what they witnessed was an eyeful to say the least. Unquestionably the student unrest of the Sixties was most essential in challenging the nation’s policy with regard to Vietnam. But if among those making a run at the Pentagon for instance is Norman Mailer, you’re going to be hearing from him later you can be assured. So evict all you want Mr. Mayor. But ignore the Armies of the Night at your peril.