Noticing New York and National Notice usually don’t cover breaking news. A breaking news focus doesn’t readily permit the kind of considered contextual articles that seem to be the most valuable addition that can be made to the prevalent media chatter. This article will make this exception to cover important breaking news.
Bloomberg reportedly had the New York Police Department move in at 1:00 AM last night (without warning) to remove the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park. According to one of the protesters who was there, interviewed on the BBC, the police moved in with knives to cut up and shred the property at the encampment. Reportedly about 70 protesters were arrested. (Another report said 200.) On the BBC you can hear protesters chanting to the police: “Who do you serve: Who do you protect?” and “Shame on you.” You can also hear, “Don’t push me.”
The dispersed protesters are now reassembling at a number of other nearby city sites. There were reports that Bloomberg closed down subway stations to divert the public away from the area.
Bloomberg seems to have chosen his time to evict the protesters so as to fold it in into reports of attempted evictions occurring elsewhere in the country. So it will be less noticed? So, with the help of a short public memory, it will hopefully disappear after a quick run through the 24- hour news cycle?
Bloomberg held a press conference this morning to explain his actions. Most notable in the press conference from standpoint of what Noticing New York and National Notice have previously reported were the following:
• Bloomberg cited health and safety reasons (not suppression of the protesters speech) as the principal reason for removing the protesters. In doing so he gave what I believe were inaccurate (and to my mind manufactured) descriptions of the conditions in Zucotti Park. The many times I have been to Zucotti Park while the protesters were there I never found or felt it was unsafe. I never found that it was difficult to enter or use the park except for the impediments in doing so that came from police barricades and sometimes from shoulder to shoulder police. I did not note that the many elderly choosing to be in the park seemed to feel any concern about their safety. A paralyzed protester in an expensive wheelchair and on a breathing apparatus also did not seem in the least perturbed about his safety. Why did Bloomberg feel it necessary to stress multiple mischaracterizations in this regard during his press conference? Why bother to say things like “there were reports of. . [insert inflammatory thing that didn’t happen] . . . but the police could find no evidence of this”?Informative background with respect to much of the above is available in an earlier and thorough Noticing New York article written about Bloomberg’s intention to evict the protesters back on October 13th: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?
• Bloomberg also said several times that the protesters had to be removed because they were violating Brookfield’s property rights. That’s something already written about by Noticing New York and National Notice. Brookfield is the theoretical owner of Zucotti Park. Zucotti Park is the kind of quasi-public space we now see replacing and substituting what used clearly to be public space. So Bloomberg is making the case that Brookfield’s ownership private rights were an operative factor justifying constriction of the protesters’ rights to free speech and free assembly. The argument that free speech violates property rights is increasingly easy as the skewing of wealth in this country to the 1% conjoins with a rapid and continuing privatization of what was previously public.
• Bloomberg was very clear that going forward he (together with Brookfield) intends to be in control of exactly how he wants the protesters to exercise their free speech rights in Zucotti Park. He said this will extend to the police searching people entering Zucotti Park, randomly or as the police see fit.
• Bloomberg said that he did not believe that the protesters were exercising their free speech rights. At the same time Bloomberg has been working to have the press report repeatedly that he is a strong believer in “free speech.” Again, one theme of Bloomberg’s press conference was that he is willing to tell the protesters how they may and should express themselves.
• At one point during the press conference Bloomberg mocked the strength of Occupy Wall Streeters’ ideas and their inability to get their ideas out in other ways. Some of their ideas are that a 1% Club, of which Bloomberg (who became the city’s wealthiest man while mayor) is conspicuously a member, exercise too much control in this country. That most certainly extends to control over who gets to say what and where and with what kind of amplification by the media and with what kind of assistance by paid advertising.
• In the press conference Bloomberg said that throughout the crisis he had been in constant contact with Brookfield Properties. This was despite the fact that earlier in the coverage of Occupy Wall Street the Bloomberg’s administration had prevailed upon the New York Times to report that Bloomberg’s staff was under “strict orders from Mr. Bloomberg” not to “lobby the owner of the park, Brookfield Office Properties.” I did not hear anyone at that press conference ask Mr. Bloomberg about the fact that his live-in girlfriend companion, Diana Taylor, is on the board of Brookfield.
(Above, another picture of Mayor Bloomberg’s dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, at Occupy Wall Street, explained here.)