Mayor Bloomberg has finally disbanded the Occupy Wall Street Movement
from its headquarters in lower Manhattan, calling the 3-month-old
protest a "health and fire safety hazard."
The bigger story: What took him so long?
Bloomberg's bizarre dance with the Occupy Wall Street protesters
over the past months will certainly rank among low points of his
tenure in office, and it goes beyond the notion that a mayor who's
primary responsibility in office is public safety seemed to ignore for
far too long that the area in lower Manhattan where the protesters
occupied was anything but safe.
The bigger reason was his absurd pretense for allowing protesters to
occupy Zuccotti Park in the first place. Mayor Bloomberg has framed it
as a Libertarian-First Amendment rights issue without recognition that
such rights have had and always have limits, particularly when they
collide with the rights of others.
And OWS movement's right to protest began colliding with the rights of
others just about from the day it began.
Of course, you didn't hear too much about the dark side of life down
at Zuccotti Park; most of the media viewed the rabble of Marxists,
drug dealers and
vagrants that assembled in lower Manhattan as a peaceful movement of
young people voicing much needed criticism of the banks. It was as if
the reporters and commentators making such statements never stepped
foot in Zuccotti Park because if they did, what was unmistakably clear
even aside from the flags of Che and Marxist literature, was the waft
of marijuana in air, the constant banging of drums, the stench of
living in a public park without proper sanitation and increasing
violent nature of the "peaceful" protesters.
For three months, Bloomberg relieved himself of the burden of dismantling this
mess because as unwholesome as the occupants might be, he explained, the U.S.
Constitution protected their right of free speech, ignoring that such
rights have and have always had certain limits.
Those limits usually center on how "rights" to do and say certain
things cease being protected rights when they affect the rights of
others. There are of course grey areas; the Founding Fathers might
have written the Constitution to allow flag burning but doing so in
the name of inciting a riot, and destroying public property and peace
in the process, would cross the line.
And for much of the protesters' occupation of Zuccotti, there have been
few grey areas. Consider the following: many people might think
Zuccotti is owned by the City and thus it's public land open to public
But it's not. Zuccotti is owned by Brookfield Properties, a private
company, and you don't have to be an expert in constitutional law to
recognize that only under extreme circumstances (eminent domain being
one of them) can government seize private property for the public
Does Mayor Bloomberg really believe OWS is so much a public good that
the rights of the park's owners should be trampled on?
Then there's the rights of everyone else: The people and their
children who live in the increasingly residential lower Manhattan (note to protesters: Most of the big Wall Street firms have moved to
midtown), the people who own businesses in the area, and anyone who
may want to voice a word of opposition.
In essence these folks had no rights during the past three months of
protests. People who lived in the area were subjected to constant
noise, public urination, drug dealing and sexual assaults literally in
their back yards. Business owners were forced to accept the fact that
restrooms for their customers were now deemed through mayoral inaction
the restrooms for the protesters.
And anyone with enough guts to voice his or her outrage at the
protesters' barely discernable message, namely that capitalism is an
evil economic system, were quickly shouted down, or as one man who had
the gall to take photos of the "peaceful" protesters found, smashed in
On one hand it's good that Mayor Bloomberg finally recognized that OWS
had ceased being a protest but a crisis that needed to be dealt with.
On the other, you've got to wonder what crazy interpretation of the U.S.
Constitution did he rely on to allow it to fester for so long.