As the world got the news about yesterday's dismantling of Occupy Wall Street, I found my B.S. detector registering off the dial.
In mid-October, I went to Zuccotti to carry out a plan hatched after watching a Jon Stewart show that focused some OWS coverage on potty jokes. New York City hasn't allowed portapotties at Zuccotti so the nearby food shops were being besieged by Occupiers with no money wanting to use the bathrooms.
No portapotties of course leads to sanitation concerns and any assemblage of people generates trash. But the Occupiers responded to the mayor's first plan to evacuate the park so it could be cleaned by forming a Cleanup Team that was busily pushing brooms and filling trash cans when we got there.
Knowing all that, I read as bull the mayor's statement yesterday that the park had to be cleaned. The OWS Cleanup Team was dealing with the trash and the "sanitation problems" would be solved by the mayor allowing portapotties in the park.
There's also a way to make the Occupiers paying customers -- welcomed to use the bathrooms -- at the panini shop featured in that Jon Stewart segment. I sat down with Stacy, the manager, and asked her how much an Occupier would have to spend to become a welcome customer, getting warm, eating hot food and using the bathrooms. When she said ten bucks and guaranteed that the bathrooms would indeed be open, we used funds from a lot of friends and family to buy a stack of ten-dollar vouchers. Stacy was delighted. So was the guy on that Cleanup Team that I entrusted with distributing the vouchers.
There's now a long-distance system that even more people have used to get those vouchers to Occupiers.
Stacy passed the B.S detector -- Panini was barricaded by the police, cutting the normal traffic into the shop. But other businesses in the area set the detector alarm off -- loudly.
We walked the blocks around Zuccotti and saw no evidence that businesses were being affected by the encampment. When we turned any corner away from the park, everything was eerily normal. Wall Street's Masters of the Universe were lunching in splendor at packed restaurants, long lines of tourists were at the World Trade Center site, souvenir shops were jammed, huge construction teams were busily building new skyscrapers.
Things were so normal in the area it was clear to me that if it weren't for media coverage, most people working on Wall Street wouldn't even know there was an encampment.
So when you hear the mayor talking about the terrible sanitation problems and the devastating effects on businesses in the area, know that the B.S. detector is going wild.
There's more. Tell the mayor to order NYPD not to injure Occupiers. There's just no excuse for that. It gives my beloved NY hometown a black eye and it harms not only the Occupiers but also those police officers--the ones I talked to at Zuccotti and in Times Square when OWS moved up there--were real people, young, not hiding behind riot masks, union members themselves, part of the 99%. Yes, there are people who enjoy violence, but allow the possibility that there are some police who really don't want to hurt the protestors. Go to www.nyc.gov, click on Office of the Mayor and tell him to direct the police to be non-violent. As we New Yorkers say, It couldn't hurt.
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