New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today that Occupy Wall Street protesters can expect a crackdown on their camp in Liberty Park.
Bloomberg made the statement mere hours before a day scheduled with all kinds of events that will challenge his authority. Bloomberg, who admits the demonstrators are peaceful and “generally” obey the law, will have to decide how strictly he plans on enforcing the permit requirements for marches and gatherings.
Side-note: I received a ton of sweet messages from international readers who were outraged that New Yorkers need permits to march. They were under the impression that the right to peaceably assemble afforded in the Constitution gives citizens the right to gather freely whenever they wish. Unfortunately, this is simply not true anymore. Specifically, in New York City, a permit is required to conduct a procession, parade, or race, and must be obtained from the Police Commissioner before the event.
Generally speaking, if twenty or more people are gathered in, say, a public park, they will also need a permit that costs $25 to process. The problem with these permits, of course, is that they can be denied or revoked for any reason, at any time. It makes the “disobedience” part of “civil disobedience” impossible by preempting any action.
“We will start enforcing that more,” the mayor ominously stated when referring to the permits. The Post interpreted that as more arrests looming on the horizon.
As it happens, today marks one of the busier days at OWS with events scheduled by Parents for Occupy Wall Street and a march from Verizon headquarters at 140 West Street to Liberty Park this evening. Verizon workers are planning a major rally with OWS with plans for 1,000 workers to join the event.
Last night I spoke with Kirby Desmarais, the organizer of Parents for Occupy Wall Street, who explained the group’s plans to bring children to the park and provide a play area and toys for what she describes as more of a “camping” environment. The idea behind the rally is that parents have been under-represented at OWS because they need to be home caring for their children, and this is their day to join the movement and express themselves, and the worries they have about their children’s futures.
The children will be oblivious to the fact that mayor chose to take a tougher stance on the occupation itself hours before the scheduled event.
This will be the first big test of Bloomberg’s new no-nonsense position. Previously, the Mayor has expressed a lukewarm tolerance of the occupation. He has previously stated that people simply want to “express themselves,” and OWS was free to do so “indefinitely,” unless of course, they broke the law in any way.
Bloomberg’s capitulation on the Oct. 14 showdown at Liberty Park is widely viewed as a victory for the protesters, and for a brief moment, it seemed the mayor planned on quietly managing the occupation without outright squashing it.
Now, Bloomberg is ratcheting up his language. This may have something to do with a contentious community board meeting that occurred last night in which many residents expressed annoyance with the presence of the protesters, and in particular, the ever-present drum circle. One theatrical speaker actually compared the drum circle to 9/11.
In order to appease some of the grievances, OWS has said they were discussing limiting drumming time, and are looking into getting port-a-potties delivered on flatbed trucks so they won’t have to use local business’s toilets. It remains unclear if the group will also need to obtain permits for the port-a-potties.
Residents asked the protesters to limit the time they also chant and play instruments. In short, they asked this display of civil disobedience to erase the “disobedience” part, and to quietly sit in a park for 24-hours a day, which kind of defeats the purpose of being there in the first place. Naturally, OWS made no promises to stop their chanting, or obtain permits for every march and gathering, but they do seem open to compromise in more reasonable areas of negotiation.