The political opponents probably help. National Tea Party organizations have begun to use Occupy as an occasion for fundraising (as Robin Pravender and Kenneth P. Vogel report in Politico). Sal Russo, of Tea Party Express, the most effective electoral arm of the Tea Party, has dismissed comparisons with the Occupiers, calling them “laughable.” FreedomWorks’ Brad Steinhauser has focused on the Occupiers’ tactics, comparing them to Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, while reserving Martin Luther King as a better comparison for the Tea Party. (This is OBVIOUSLY so ridiculous on so many levels that I will leave it to you. My first comparisons are here.)
Although Occupy may help these groups raise money, this effort will encourage a broader public to polarize–and the Tea Party just isn’t that popular with most Americans. There will also be a battle about defining just which movement represents real America. You’re known by your enemies as much as by your friends. (This “real America” label is also silly. The retired pharmacist who’s never engaged in politics; the young woman with a fresh college degree and student debt unable to find more than minimum wage work; the thin and bearded anarchist rambling on about democracy; the armed woman railing on about illegal immigration—they’re all American. The lists–it’s just like Walt Whitman said.)
The practical threat is more dangerous. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that Zuccotti Park needs to be cleaned, and that activists have to clear out by Friday morning. The demonstrators can return, he’s said, but not with tents and sleeping bags. (Yes, Mayor Bloomberg said a few days ago that the protesters could stay indefinitely.)
Releasing a letter from Brookfield Office Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park, the Mayor says that this maintenance is necessary to preserve the park. The Occupiers view their removal and the cleaning as an effort to get them out, and thus, a threat to their survival.
Three thousand miles away, I’m prepared to believe that they’re both right.
Occupy Wall Street has responded on two fronts. First, the group has announced a resistance campaign that will include non-cooperation with the police, as well as letter-writing, phone calls, and public engagement. Second, the Occupiers have announced their new Good Neighbor Policy:
OWS has zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol anywhere in Liberty Plaza;
Zero tolerance for violence or verbal abuse towards anyone;
Zero tolerance for abuse of personal or public property.
OWS will limit drumming on the site to 2 hours per day, between the hours of 11am and 5pm only.
OWS encourages all participants to respect health and sanitary regulations, and will direct all participants to respectfully utilize appropriate off-site sanitary facilities.
OWS will display signage and have community relations and security monitors in Liberty Plaza, in order to ensure awareness of and respect for our guidelines and Good Neighbor Policy….
Note: In conjunction with local community members and their representatives, OWS is also working to establish off-site sanitary facilities such as port-a-potties.
The Good Neighbor Policy is unlikely to satisfy Brookfield or many of the local merchants. More significantly, the New York Police Department is certainly capable of evicting hundreds, even thousands, of non-violent protesters and blocking off the park–even if it means mass arrests. This will be a story for a few days, but if Occupy Wall Street becomes focused only on Zuccotti Park, the emergent movement loses.
The Occupiers need to find a way to maintain their efforts absent the first Occupation.