For about two months now, a number of protesters have moved into lower Manhattan and dubbed themselves the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Their main base of operations is Zuccotti Park, which lies next to Broadway and Cedar Street. For those who do not know Manhattan, the park is basically about as far downtown as you can get. The space, which was formerly a quiet, outdoor, place to enjoy lunch or take in a bit of nature in the middle of a concrete jungle, has now been befouled and desecrated by citizens who do not even have a clear picture of who their antics are truly affecting.
The "Occupy" movement's creed, according to their website, is that they represent "the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%." The website further claims that they are using the "Arab Spring" tactic in order to "achieve [their] ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants." The "Arab Spring" tactic refers to the wave of protests in the Arab world that began last December and resulted in the leaders of Egypt and eventually Libya being overthrown. Unfortunately, this mission statement has either been forgotten or deliberately ignored by the group, as there have been a number of incidents that prove this "non violent" protest that "maximizes the safety" of participants is neither non-violent nor safe to its own members.
This past week, one of the occupy Wall Street protesters threw a violent fit in a McDonalds restaurant when he was denied free food. Fisika Bezabeh, a 27-year-old man, ripped a credit card reader from the counter and threw it at the workers who were simply trying to prepare food and work their shifts at 2:30am. The downtown McDonalds, which has become one of the favorite bathroom spots for protesters, reported that police are still investigating the incident. As for the claim that the protest is safe for the individuals involved in the movement, there are at least three separate incidents that refute that claim. Again this past week, the New York Post captured a violent conflict between two of the protesters on video. A homeless man can be seen yelling a profanity-laden string of insults at "occupiers," and eventually begins to kick the tents of different protesters. Not backing down, some of the Zuccotti Park residents fight back, and violence erupts. In a much more serious and shocking affair, Tonye Iketubosin, a 26-year-old man from Crown Heights, has been linked to at least two incidents of sexual assault in the tent city. One of the cases even involves a minor! These are not the only reported sexual incidents inside the occupy camp, and the problem has gotten so bad that the leaders of the protest have erected "womens-only" tents to help prevent any further sexual assaults. I'm not even going to mention the extreme violence that has erupted at the "Occupy" protest in Oakland. Safe and violence-free? Doesn't sound like it.
Another serious issue down at Zucotti Park is the lack of proper sanitation. First, the abundance of rotting food and the pileup of trash in the park has attracted a slew of rats. In fact, Wayne Yon, an expert of city health regulations, called Zuccotti Park a "Walmart for rats." Yon said a lack of hot and cold water and the absence of enough lavatory facilities has resulted in at least 15 health code violations that would shut down any New York City restaurant. Because of this, the stench of urine and feces that those who work adjacent to the occupy camp must endure is overwhelming. Recently, the movement secured three porta-pottys because the defecation and urination on the street and doorsteps of local businesses was getting out of hand.
The logistical nightmare created by the occupation of downtown Manhattan will need to be dealt with very soon before the health risk alone becomes too much to overcome. Ultimately, though, these issues are all addressable. The Achilles heel of the movement runs much deeper. The Occupy Wall Street crowd claims they represent the 99% of the population who want the 1% to answer for their crimes. Well, there are members of this 99% who's lives have been made much more difficult by the protesters and their antics. In fact, these "99%-ers" are the people mainly being affected by the movement.
I have spoken with several people who work down on Wall Street, and the response I get when I ask about the Occupy crowd is always the same -- annoyance and disgust. A worker at a downtown bank responded "the Occupy Wall Street crowd is making everyone's life harder. It takes twenty extra minutes to get to and from work, and the stench makes my eyes water." Someone who works for the MTA downtown told me "the protesters are all filthy and disgusting, and the conditions are extremely unsanitary. The movement also delays all the foot and auto traffic in the area since the police have to monitor the traffic on certain roads." Also, not only are there protesters and workers in the area, but the Occupy crowd has become a sort of tourist attraction. You have visitors to the city who come to take pictures of the event.
What the Occupy Wall Street movement fails to understand is that 99% of the workers in the area are simply attempting to make a living wage -- the same people who the protesters claim they represent. Secretaries, security guards, back room analysts, number crunchers, and administrative assistants make up the bulk of the workforce around Wall Street. These people are not making the millions that the Occupy Crowd seems to take issue with. The CEOs and millionaires who are the object of the protester's attention rarely spend days downtown, and if they do, they take helicopters and ride in tinted-windowed cars and trucks. Most of them barely notice the protesters -- they are a minor inconvenience at best. In addition, all the police and safety workers who have to work overtime and wade through the urine and feces in order to prevent any further violence are all simply trying to eek out a living in this horrible economy. In reality, what Occupy is doing is making all of these simple, American worker's lives' more difficult. Is this what the protesters want?
Everyone in the United States has a right to speak out and make his or her voice heard. No one is denying them that right. Even so, I think it is time for the leaders to seriously question what it is their movement is actually accomplishing. The Occupy movement, which was started by Adbusters -- a Canadian anti-capitalist group, has lost their way. In addition, I wonder how many of the trust fund children and angry liberal college graduates (who thought they'd be making more than 30k a year) know exactly whom they are following. It's time to end this, the point has been made -- America needs change, we know. Stop shouting "tax the rich," and start practicing the phrase "would you like fries with that."
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