No, I am not affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street action, nor do I know any one who is. So when I say what'll happen next with this protest, yes, I kind of don't know what I'm talking about. But I'm right.
Here's what's going on:
Occupy Wall Street is partly – and only partly - an idea: Money has poisoned democracy, and we're not even experiencing true capitalism anymore. Legalized corruption has left us at the mercy of oligarchies that we're forced to support.
Message transmitted. And very well done, by the way.
But Occupy Wall Street is also a thing, a physical encampment in New York City - and as such, it'll probably deteriorate in certain predictable ways.
As most educated people know, winter is coming - and New York becomes very, very cold. The protesters with jobs will go back to them, the other middle class elements will wander off to preach somewhere more comfortable, and the only ones left will be really hard-core activists, and people who would be sleeping on the street anyway - the criminals and the insane. We have a lot of those here.
I have seen this kind of situation work itself out before, and in much gentler environs than downtown Manhattan. People's Park in Berkeley was born in May 1969, when student protesters clashed with police to prevent some open space from converting into a sports field. Ultimately, the protesters won - and bully for them. But by the time I enrolled at UC Berkeley in the 1980s, that little patch of weeds, broken glass and idealism had bloomed into an outdoor homeless shelter, and you didn't go there after dark.
Actually, most of the homeless themselves were afraid of it
Thus will it go in Zuccotti Park. Sure, conservative media outlets still sound a little nutty when they screech about scattered thefts and assaults in the park – conveniently ignoring that, in New York, it's only surprising the violence didn't flare up earlier. But come winter, the ditto-heads won't have to exaggerate anymore. Crime will become the norm, as the protest group boils down to its most desperate elements.
By the time the NYPD finally crashes down on these campers, a critical mass of New Yorkers will tacitly applaud.
And by the way, if the camp nonetheless survives, there will be uncomfortable questions of what to do with all the contributions Occupy Wall Street has accumulated from well-wishers. In fairness, those belong to the park dwellers. But understand that, if the Zuccotti Park encampment lasts until next spring, the driving theme behind it won't really be finance or graft anymore. It'll be homelessness.
In any case, although it would be a cute idea to mark an official end to the protest - on, say, the Winter Solstice - organizers can't really stop the thing because no one owns it. But I think the folks who ignited this event would be well advised to announce - clearly and unconditionally - that they themselves are heading on to another project.
Mind you, there's an upside here - creating a bad part of town right adjacent to Wall Street. It'll teach the brokers what happens when you screw your fellow man. Someday, your fellow man tracks you down - and he's not looking his best.
- New York, New York, USA
- June 02
- Barry Lank is a former newspaper editor and former writer with Air America Radio. His call is coming from inside your house. Get out now!
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