PICKET: Occupy encampments become danger zones

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Occupy Oakland protesters face off with police

The party appears to be wrapping up for a number of occupy protest set ups around the country. The epicenter of it all, Occupy Wall Street, is taking away New York City Police officers away from the real crime centers of the five boroughs, reports The New York Postand today CBS NY is reporting that Zucotti Park, the encampment area for the New York City protesters could very well be a fire trap.

Although Mayor Mike Bloomberg has told protesters they could stay indefinitely, Mother Nature may be the one who kicks out the majority of squatters who who are sleeping in the park located in New York’s financial district. Earlier reports predict that cold weather will be the demise of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. 

Power struggles within the New York protest site could also collapse the Occupy Wall Street gathering. The General Assembly, which makes decisions for occupy demonstrators by group consensus says that they do not operate by a vertical hierarchy but by “horizontal decision making” among other things. 

“The principles here are horizontal decision making, transparency, openness, inclusiveness, accessibility. There’s people doing sign language at the General Assembly now. There’s clusters of deaf people that come together and do sign language together. This is an example of the inclusive nature that we want to create here,” said John Friesen, an OWS participant who is training as a facilitator for the group. 

However, a piece in New York Magazine illustrates the problems that come along with such thinking: 

All occupiers are equal — but some occupiers are more equal than others. In wind-whipped Zuccotti Park, new divisions and hierarchies are threatening to upend Occupy Wall Street and its leaderless collective.

As the protest has grown, some of the occupiers have spontaneously taken charge on projects large and small. But many of the people in Zuccotti Park aren’t taking direction well, leading to a tense Thursday of political disagreements, the occasional shouting match, and at least one fistfight.

It began, as it so often does, with a drum circle. The ten-hour groove marathons weren’t sitting well with the neighborhood’s community board, the ironically situated High School of Economics and Finance that sits on the corner of Zuccotti Park, or many of the sleep-deprived protesters.

“[The high school] couldn’t teach,” explained Josh Nelson, a 27-year-old occupier from Nebraska. “And we’ve had issues with the drummers too. They drum incessantly all day, and really loud.” Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out,” said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun. They brought in publicity and money. Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

With $500,000 in donations from all over the country, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are fighting over who gets how much of the cut and where the money is currently going. The financial infighting sounds eerily similar to the debates lawmakers have every day on Capitol Hill that many occupy protesters tell politicians to just stop doing. 

Other occupy encampments are facing their own problems. One couple at Occupy Boston was arrested for selling heroin, reports CBS Boston and NBC’s local affiliate in Portand, Maine reported on a chemical bomb attack at an Occupy Maine protest site. Police in Oakland, California arrested 75 Occupy Oakland demonstrators.

CBS News reported early Tuesday morning that law enforcement officials dismantled the encampment. According to CBS:

City officials had originally been supportive of the protesters, with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan saying that sometimes “democracy is messy.”

But the city later warned the protesters that they were breaking the law and could not stay in the encampment overnight. They cited concerns about rats, fire hazards, public urination and acts of violence at the site.”Many Oaklanders support the goals of the national Occupy Wall Street movement,” Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement on Tuesday.

“However, over the last week it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the City could maintain safe or sanitary conditions or control the ongoing vandalism.”

There were reports of a sex assault and a severe beating and fire and paramedics were denied access to the camp, according to city officials, who said they had also received numerous complaints of intimidating and threatening behavior.

Protesters over the weekend said they had no plans to leave. Owens said the protesters plan to try to retake the plaza at some point. Asked whether they would be discouraged by the loss of the encampment, Owens said, “I think it’s going to fire up people even more.”

Many occupy encampments are facing to be dismantled when the issue of safety and convenience overwhelm city budgets and resources to the point where action will likely be taken by authorities. New York City has yet to reach it’s tipping point, but either way, Mayor Bloomberg does not come out of it looking like a leader, when other cities have led the way to wind down the occupy demonstrations before him.  

 

 

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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