Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Moderate's Take on Occupy Wall Street's Eviction

Being a moderate is not refusing to take a side. It is having a mind open to both sides of an argument, willing to listen and sensitive to perspectives. It also means willing to call out sloppy and foolish thinking when it rears its head. The eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zucotti Park is a good example of this kind of thing. Liberals see it as black, Conservatives see it as white. The truth in in between.

The Case Against the Protesters

On the one hand, the comments by protesters show their complete loss of context. They criticized police for "destroying my home", for "exercising authority I do not recognize", and "evicting people without due process". A park is NOT a home. You don't own it by squatting there. And the authority of the NYPD over a NY park is not in question. It was right to clean out and clean up the park. The violence and health risks in the camp needed to be addressed, and the NYC authorities have shown remarkable restraint up until now.

The Case For the Protesters

On the other hand, the protesters are exercising their rights of free speech, free assembly, and the vast majority were peaceful. So, they have a point when they object to being forcibly removed AND not allowed to return. While we are annoyed and bored with the whole thing, we can't deny them these rights. At the very least, we must ensure they have somewhere else to gather (although not necessarily to encamp). Remember, the whole point of free assembly and peaceful protest is to allow an airing of ideas that are contrary to the establishment without requiring violence. The annoyance that we feel is the weapon they have to draw our attention to what they perceive as great evils. If we deny them this outlet, their only alternatives will be to tolerate evil or fight it violently (i.e. with riots).
Ignore or deride Occupy Wall Street (or the Tea Party for that matter) at your own risk. Better to engage them in dialogue... if they are willing.


Anonymous said...

I was talking about this with a Tea Party guy on election day last week. He said he was voting against the current town administration because they didn't issue a permit to stage a protest... so there was no protest. Interesting how different that is from the "Occupy" movement. Then again, the name occupy implies taking land without consent.

quizwedge said...

Does it matter that the park is privately owned? I don't fully understand privately-owned-public-space. If it's private property, then the owners are within their rights to kick people out. If it's public, then there does need to be somewhere for the protesters to express their free speech.

That being said, I think the Occupy movement needs some better policing of itself, better focussed goals, and a better image.