Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Today's Occupy Wall Street developments

I was distressed to learn today of Mayor Bloomberg's ugly and under-handed quasi-military police action in Zuccotti Park last night. It is exactly the sort of arrogant, sneaky, bad-faith, and self-pleasing venture, complete with police violence and concerted efforts to muzzle live press coverage, that one would expect of such colleagues of his in the media and government businesses as fellow oligarch Silvio Berlusconi. I am hoping that mayoral recall petitions (if there is such a procedure in NYC) will start to circulate.

That said, while I was disappointed by the ruling just issued by the New York State Supreme Court to the effect that, while OWS people must be allowed back into the park, they cannot reestablish a permanent encampment with tents and such, I did feel upon reading the ruling that it appears legally reasonable.

The OWS people need to be very smart now about how best to keep public attention focused on the issues of wealth distribution, rigged crony capitalism, and government policymakers' indifference to the interests of the "99 percent" that I gather motivate them - and how to retain broader public sympathy for themselves and their issues when the other side is just looking for excuses to demonize them - in a tough situation and when they no doubt are upset. Played correctly, it could end up having given them the perfect exit strategy from having to stay in Zuccotti Park (perhaps with ever-dwindling forces) all through the winter. But the next step is crucial, and it's unclear how well their collective decision structure can handle it.

4 comments:

Patrick Crawford said...

I share your perspective. I must say I am shocked at the police and the mayor. Either things have got a lot worse in our society over the past 30 years, or I have have become more sensitive to abuse of power. I think it's the former, as the OWS folks point out. It's a scary country and that has to change.

I also have no doubt that the stories about NYPD (and other police forces) placing provocateurs is absolutely true. It's still shocking to me to see the reality of the established power. These guys make no pretense of honoring traditional American values of social justice or even fair play.

I think it's important public intellectuals such as yourself speak your mind. It's not without risk, after all. Though the risk of remaining silent are now historically obvious.

Patrick said...

One more comment. I just read the order and I cannot agree that it seems legally sound. I'm not a constitutional law expert by any means. But there are two points: 1. was the correct standard of review applied? After all, the restriction is NOT content neutral. It was imposed only AFTER the protest occurred and therefore any rational basis analysis seems totally lacking; and 2. even under rational basis, or a higher standard certainly, the restriction against tents seems unrelated to safety, sanitation etc... No effort is made to tailor the restriction at all.

Actually, the order seems like a hatchet job, to me. The city powers want these protesters out and the judge as part of that power structure, is just part of the same force. The judge didn't even discuss why a post hoc restriction like that does not raise any issue at all. The judge didn't even bother to address it.

Daniel Shaviro said...

I just tried to post a comment, but seem to have flubbed it, so here goes again.

Perhaps I was bending over backwards to continuing seeming reasonable, but here's why I thought the court's position was defensible. The park owners presumably wouldn't want encampments there even absent speech content. Plus, such things are presumably generally restricted. And their failure to issue the rules prior, though bad for their case, arguably reflected that they didn't anticipate this happening (and wouldn't have wanted it in any event). And arguably, under a standard U.S. legal approach, OWS has enough right to speak as is (put up against the property rights) even though it will be practically difficult to keep it going without overnight. So arguably a reasonable or at least defensible ruling even if one might have decided the case differently.

JPB said...

I don't get the outrage. Once you've made up your mind to clear out the park, you want to do it with as little violence as possible, so of course you go in in the late night/early morning while the crowd is thin and everyone is groggy. We could debate whether clearing it was the right thing to do, but the tactics seem sound enough. Doing otherwise would seem highly imprudent.