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Uprising

Monday, Oct 31, 2011, 6:58 am

Former NY Sun Editor Accuses NYPD Of Sending Addicts to Occupy Wall Street

By Allison Kilkenny

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If this NY Daily News op-ed is accurate, it takes the NYPD's dirty game of bleeding Occupy Wall Street dry via arbitrary arrests and generator seizures to a whole new level. Harry Siegel, former editor at the New York Sun, New York Press, and Politico, accuses NYPD officers of telling addicts to "take it to Zuccotti" after finding them drinking in other parks. 

“He’s got a right to express himself, you’ve got a right to express yourself,” I heard three cops repeat in recent days, using nearly identical language, when asked to intervene with troublemakers inside the park, including a clearly disturbed man screaming and singing wildly at 3 a.m. for the second straight night.

“The first time I’ve heard cops mention our First Amendment rights,” cracked one occupier after hearing a lieutenant read off of that apparent script.

“A lot of you people smell,” a waggish cop shot back later after an occupier asked if he might be able to help find more appropriate accommodations for a particularly pungent and out-of-sorts homeless man.

Siegel writes that this kind of sabotage would be a "logical tactic" from the Bloomberg administration, which has done nothing but attempt to make life extremely miserable for the protesters.

This kind of tricky undercutting of OWS would also keep in line with the protest sabotage I wrote about last week in which city officials and police use the excuse of the law to crush individuals' First Amendment rights. Introducing addicts, alcoholics, and other unstable individuals is not only a super dangerous idea that could result in protesters being attacked or hurt, but it also serves to discredit the larger movement.

I can confirm Siegel's characterization of Liberty Park as being divided into almost two separate protest groups: the east side, which harbours the participants' stronghold, and then the west side where stragglers (Siegel calls them the "non-participants") tend to cluster nearby the much-debated drummers.

Most worrisome, the culture of OWS at night seems to have changed dramatically since the beginning of the movement, and it may have something to do with these individuals who have been herded into Liberty Park by the NYPD.

The number of non-participants taking advantage of the resources that the activists have provided — free food, clothing, tarps and sleeping bags, hand-rolled smokes and even books, not to mention a sense of protection from the police, who have increasingly left the park to protect itself - has exploded over the past week, and is threatening to define the occupation itself and overshadow its political and social ambitions. Despite those resources, “spanging” (spare-changing, or panhandling) at Zuccotti has become commonplace, as have fights, near-fights and open-air drug sales.“

I mean you wouldn’t see somebody at the General Assembly smoking a joint,” said [Jeff] Smith, [a member of the OWS press working group], reflecting the frustrations shared by many working group members who have invested their time and energies in the occupation. “But in the back, they’re selling crystal meth.”

Reading this accusation, I began to reassess my belief that the NYPD were generally clumsy saboteurs, who made PR blunder after PR blunder by macing innocent young women and performing mass arrests. If Siegel's reporting is accurate, this is sabotage of a whole new sophisticated level. Rather than bleed the movement by seizing their food and tents, the NYPD is reportedly allowing possibly dangerous individuals to invade the camp and subtly discredit the movement from the inside. 

Additionally, the importation of addicts works on a whole other level. This action forces OWS to focus its energy internally rather than externally. Now, the group is busy managing its own people, worrying about drug deals and dangerous behavior from possibly foreign enemy forces. This was focus that had previously been aimed outward and upward - targeting what OWS calls the "one percenters."

Like when a magician uses a distraction technique to draw the audience's attention away from a sleight of hand, the NYPD and Bloomberg's administration may be using addicts to distract from what they're actually doing, which is attacking OWS on multiple levels, and ingeniously, making it look like they're not attacking the group at all.

On numerous occasions, I've seen media and business people attempting to debate some of the individuals hanging out on the west side, and secretly winced. While of course the two sides are not monoliths and there are exceptions in both groups, I've found the west-siders tend to adhere to the establishment media's characterisation of OWS as being comprised of inarticulate transients. It's not until reaching the heart of the park and entering the east side that one finds the true OWS participants, who can very beautifully articulate why they're taking part in the movement. 

Alas, many don't make it that far into the park, and immediately characterise the entire movement based on what they see in the west side, which now we've learned might be home to addicts delivered by the NYPD.

OWS is working to address these concerns. The movement has always had a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy, but the group has now also tried occasionally shutting down the free-food services in an experiment to get rid of "freeloaders." There was also some talk of adopting a work-for-food policy in an attempt to, again, weed out the people showing up for the food and not to aid the resistance. 

 

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.

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