According to the New York Times, seizing the upper hand in the battle to maintain a 24 hour occupation in New York City, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have repelled the NYPD with a paper shield in the form of a 12 year-old Federal Court order that allows "sleeping as a form of public expression" and spent a number of nights in front of Bank of America at Union Square and two other banks in the area. Brandishing a large paper facsimile (mounted on previously declared illegal cardboard) Occupiers moved onto public sidewalks adjoining the banks on April 6th and have maintained a nightly vigil for over a week without arrest or serious incident. "So long as we're not making noise, obstructing pedestrian traffic or doing any other thing that could be construed as disorderly conduct, we're cool", explained one of the nightly Occupiers at BofA. The reaction from the NYPD has been even more interesting as winter warms into an American Spring that could make Rodney King proud.
A feeling of "Can't we all just get along?" pervades both fronts on the sidewalks at night, contrasting greatly with the general shock and awe tactics of the police plus park rangers in Union Square during the day. Firmly knocking on the wooden table at which I sit and compose this missive at the Apple store, I sense a reshaping of tactics that may be the heart of allowing Occupy and mayor Bloomberg's self described personal army to get along as the Occupation now sets it's sites on breaking up Bank of America as a first anniversary present to itself come September this year. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. My experience the last three nights shows that both Occupy and the NYPD can play cat and mouse with equal aplomb.
04.08.12 - On the heals of a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi that described Bank of America as "the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend" Occupy's mainstream media described l'enfant terribles rolled up to the BoA at the corner of 14th St. and University place almost making it look like the neighborhood was re-gentrifying and pushing out the neighbors that had caused property values across the US to plummet in the wake of a massive sub-prime mortgage crisis the bank helped to perpetuate. As it has become the practice for the NYPD to close Union Square Park at midnight with the placing of hundreds of barricades to block entrance whilst deploying another few hundred zip-tie-handcuff armed police inside the barricades to make sure Occupiers really don't want to go there, demonstrators have opted out of being arrested in favor of just taking a real legal eagle nap and possibly having a little pizza before bedtime. All they need to do is leave the park and head across the street to BofA, Citibank, or others surrounding the park. Currently the sidewalks beside three banks host Occupiers with sleeping bags in safe, well-lit locations where the only thing missing might be the mints on the pillows. Wake-up calls, however are de rigueur and provided by smiling NYPD officers who are starting to look like they just might be enjoying that rolled up legal document that's been shoved up their butts. Friday night turns into Saturday morning without incident and smiling, cheery police officers were not uncommon as protesters awaken at 8 and are pretty much told by the nanny state to "go to work".
04.09.12 - Midnight Easter morning rolls around and one might have thought that Occupiers and their babysitters were planning an Easter egg hunt. The Washington Post National edition declares that Occupiers were holding a "slumber party" and a movement, now renowned for their horizontal structure, takes the same position in relation to speaking out. Horizontally. But before it's time to snooze Occupiers schlepp the 'People's Library' from the park to the sidewalk adjacent BofA and can be seen reading, sharing a cache purchased from Taco Bell as well as sharing the days stories as the Occupation doesn't so much wear thin on Occupiers but quite possibly wears tiresome on the city coffers.
The New York Times reports again that so far 17 million dollars have been spent on the Occupy police detachment while mayor Michael Bloomberg proceeds to layoff 4,675 teachers - a total of 6% of all the city's public school teachers. Officer Lombardo, a real hard case from old Zuccotti days looks quizzically at a bunch of people he can't arrest because they aren't breaking any laws and then comes up with some didly sh*t just to give people a hard time. "You can't sleep on arranged plastic milk cartons with cardboard on top because that's considered a structure"- really important stuff considering that the crime rate continues to climb in the 5 boroughs as 400 officers are kept on reserve just to police the avowed non-violent Occupiers. And the crime? Hmm. Sleeping. But, not a crime, so some other crimes will need to be found to justify all those cops. But not this night. Midnight has turned into Easter Sunday, even Lombardo is tired and there are eggs to be hidden at home by the younger officers on patrol who can't quite remember this sequence from the training films they saw at the academy. All quiet on the occupied front. "Good night John Boy."
04.10.12 - As the next day rolls in so does a refreshed shift of newly minted officers. Seniority keeps the oldsters at home on holiday and fresh grads are shipped in to handle the Occupiers. And it is far from a fair fight. Piling out of two squads these peach faced defenders of the public trust try to figure out who's going to be the leader and approach a leaderless movement. Lumbering up to the wall of reclining Occupiers an officer who must have studied Jack Web in his training days, says. "Ok, boys, you're gonna have to move". "Why?" a seasoned Occupier and six-year veteran of the streets counters. "Because you're on private property, you're all homeless, and they want to steam clean the sidewalk", returns officer unfriendly. Hidden muffled snickers abound from the Occupy camp, "Jeeziz", you can almost hear the NY Occupiers say. "They never steam clean the frigging sidewalk". Seeing this is going nowhere another officer sheepishly says, "I don't know, I've never been here, I don't know what to do" and turns back to the pack as our Occupier of the moment proceeds to take the first big mouth cop apart by citing what is public and what is not, what is legal and what is not, and another eloqutes how he has seen the city's homeless shelters and declares that this sidewalk is cleaner and safer than the lot of them and he's not moving an inch. Time to call for back-up.
And so on the day following Easter, a paddy wagon is parked on the corner with a flashing rack of lights left on all night, just to warn the citizens, that an Occupier might wake up and go fishing through whatever food they have left from the previous day's kitchen stash. And all in front of Bank of America.
Some days, it hard to decide what real or not, what's true or not. When the richest man in New York marshal's his 'personal army' to defend just one of the banks who has systematically robbed the American people, and the people have marshaled their right to defend their money - where does it all end? Occupier and organizer Nelini Stamp says in AlterNet news " "We want to highlight that banks steal homes." Occupiers at the Union Square location remain intent on just stealing a few winks on the zombie bank's public sidewalk to make that stealing a home vs stealing a nap are very different things. One legal - one not.
David is a marketing consultant and writer living in New York. He formed Korea's first 100% foreign invested advertising agency in 1997 and spent 16 years in Asia and Europe as an international entrepreneur and writer and has written for Technorati (more...)