Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD have announced their intention to sweep Liberty Square of protesters in the early hours of Friday morning on the grounds that the square has become unsanitary and needs cleaning. This is a transparent ruse to shut down the occupation and limit the protests, in the name of asserting the private property rights of the park’s owners over the public right to free assembly.
The same rationale was followed in Boston where the police made mass arrests to allegedly defend private shrubs in a public park, although the conservatory association who manage the park had agreed to let the protesters stay.
A statement by Occupy Wall Street said: “Bloomberg says that the park will be open for public usage following the cleaning, but with a notable caveat: Occupy Wall Street participants must follow the ‘rules’. NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said that they will move in to clear us and we will not be allowed to take sleeping bags, tarps, personal items or gear back into the park. This is it—this is their attempt to shut down #OWS for good.”
Occupy Wall Street responded by calling for a mass turnout of support at midnight to defend the occupation from Bloomberg’s eviction. In the meantime they launched a major site clean-up themselves, some members scrubbing the granite stones of the park on their hands and knees.
Whatever happens on Friday morning, police intervention will inevitably swell public support for the “We are the 99 percent” movement, because behind the protesters are masses of people who are connected to them by the realities of their lives.
Eliot Spitzer’s assessment of the movement can be found in Slate: “Suddenly, the issues of equity, fairness, justice, income distribution, and accountability for the economic cataclysm–issues all but ignored for a generation—are front and center. We have moved beyond the one-dimensional conversation about how much and where to cut the deficit. Questions more central to the social fabric of our nation have returned to the heart of the political debate. By forcing this new discussion, OWS has made most of the other participants in our politics—who either didn’t want to have this conversation or weren’t able to make it happen—look pretty small.”
In that connection, take a look at the sign in the photo above: “What do you want OUR government to stand for? How do we secure our future?” It’s a call for an open-ended debate on the role of government, but it also expresses a confident certainty that the government can be made to represent we the people, “the 99 percent,” and that we therefore have an obligation to decide what it should stand for. It asserts that our collective actions, and nothing else, can determine our future.
The experiences of the occupation have strengthened this certainty and given confidence to many of the 99 percent who had given up hope. That’s why Bloomberg regards it as so dangerous.
The logic of capital accumulation has created a crisis situation which cannot be resolved without a large portion of capital being destroyed in order that accumulation can continue. But owners of capital are manoeuvring and fighting among themselves to make sure it’s someone else’s capital, not their own, that gets written off. At the same time, the American people are aroused and angry and won’t accept being reduced to debt peonage. Huge class battles are in the offing.
By its open-endedness, the question the sign asks raises the possibility of an answer which would involve bringing down the super-rich and wealthy who control the political system. But that’s something which may have to be discovered by historical experience of struggle, rather than from a textbook solution.