How Not to Run a Movement

It’s unclear to me how a strategy of harassment wins converts to the cause, but that’s the route Occupy Wall Street chose to take today. Commuters wealthy, middle-class and poor all alike suffered a complete severance of subway service to and from Wall Street in the early morning rush hour; worse-than-normal barricade and police presence; the terrifying sight of helicopters hovering menacingly at strategic points across the island; “papers-please” checkpoints across the Financial District; and, generally, a crush of confrontational protestors, signs in hand, oblivious to the lives of those around them. My close friend and neighbor — an exceptionally talented playwright who also tutors high school students — said it best:

Today a high school student had to cancel his lesson because you were throwing up barricades and he didn’t feel safe. I have put up with 2 months of barricades, mounted police, horse poop, and security check points. Release my neighborhood – the 99% live here too.

Occupy Wall Street’s message, when they can be coerced into stating one, is vitally important to this country’s future, and it’s a cause that deserves better than to be dragged through the mud (and horse poop) by standard-bearers who apparently value inconvenience and disrespect for authority as ends in themselves; not as undesirable side-effects of some forms of nonviolent protest. New York city, and her people, are allies to be lost, not enemies to be fought. I pray OWS remembers that before the end.

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3 comments

  1. Remember this post? What you criticized there and what you criticize here, I think they’re linked. Namely, I think it’s the same sort of person who wants student loan forgiveness as values inconvenience and disrespect for authority as ends in themselves.

    I’m betting they approve of PETA, too.

  2. I don’t think it was the protestors who put up police barricades. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Occupiers’ helicopters overhead. Precious few protestors set up checkpoints.

    If the way the police choose to respond to protestors’ behavior inconveniences people, I don’t think the protestors deserve the bulk of the blame.

  3. All peaceful protests are based on a level of inconvenience. And most of the historical protests we look back “positively” on, and the ones that made a difference, tended to be more inconvenient than your standard, stroll down the street with a sign.

    The disrespect for authority part I think is a complicated issue. I hold that the current relationship between cops and your average NYC citizen (particularly your liberal NYC citizen) is already tenuous. With recent scandals, the village voice expose, the rape allegations, the Sean Bell shooting, the stop & frisk controversy….I don’t know if everyone there trusts the cops. Then you have incidents of violence, here and elsewhere, which just deepens this feeling of “us” vs. “them”.

    Then you get a diverse group of people, some are anti-establishment, anti-cop, anarchists…others just want world peace and to put flowers in your hair. And it was like the whole Tea Party issue, of complaining that a few racists were ruining their image. It’s partially the same thing here as well.

    When I was at Occupy Wall Street, the cops were standing in groups chatting with each other non nonchalantly. The protestors that would walk up and talk to them, would go from, challenging, “Who’s side are you on?”, to just talking about football.

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