Homeless people are routinely swept off the streets for disobeying city laws against loitering. If they borrowed some signs from the squatters of Zucotti Park and claimed to be protesting some inequality, they might earn the same leniency from our mayor to live on the street for an indefinite period of time. Just hold a sign and you’ll be fine seems to be his criterion. Mayor Mike claims that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are simply expressing their freedom of speech and so long as their conduct remains within the law, they are free to do so without interference from authority. This is the same big-hearted mayor who wouldn’t invite religious leaders to the 9/11 Memorial in order to enforce the separation of church and state, and the same man whose fine analytical mind concluded that anyone opposed to the Ground Zero Mosque was a bigot who dis-respected our constitutional freedom of worship. The Occupy Wall Street-ers have inhabited a privately owned park for a lmost a month, during which time they have appropriated its use solely for themselves. They have trashed it along with the bathrooms of neighboring restaurants and stores whose business has been sorely impacted by this invasion of hundred of free loaders enjoying the balmy weather and this year’s version of Woodstock. The cost of maintaining extra police on duty round the clock is borne by all NYC taxpayers; the inconvenience of living near these noisy squatters is borne unfairly and exclusively by the residents of Tribeca and the Financial District.
The Squatters will be marching to the upper east side today to shake their signs at the residential buildings of five selective moguls: Rupert Murdoch, Jamie Dimon, David Koch, Howard Milstein and John Paulson. They will not be protesting in front of 1 percenter Michael Bloomberg’s house nor at the residence of billionaire supporter George Soros nor any of the overpaid entertainers, athletes and celebrities who also comprise the 1% super-rich who populate our city and take advantage of our supposed 1 percenter-friendly tax codes. The free-loading squatters have embraced the sentiments of the Arab Spring, one of whose Egyptian leaders visited them last week to express solidaity. They have chosen to ignore the cautionary tale that is the actuality of that prematurely labeled revolt which has resulted in too many unwelcome consequences of military brutality, police abuse, religious fanaticism, economic downturn and blatant anti-semitic acts of violence. Now that the tourist industry of Egypt is gone, the economy is far worse than it was before with no immediate or long-term plan for improvement. It would seem that regardless of the results, the thing worth emulating for the Zucotti Squatters is the drama and attention that come from life on the street.
Once again, Mayor Mike has made the wrong call. Occupying Zucotti Park for three weeks is not a lawful form of free expression that the city should indulge - it’s a hijacking of both private property and public expense. There are more effective ways to use the police than as babysitters for slackers frolicking in the park, pretending to be doing something significant. The amorphous message promulgated by the squatters doesn’t require ongoing articulation or the establishment of a campground. As David Brooks writes in Tuesday’s Times: “A group that divides the world between the pure 99 percent and the evil 1 percent will have nothing to say about education reform, Medicare reform, tax reform, wage stagnation or polarization. They will have nothing to say about the way Americans have overconsumed and overborrowed.” It’s time for New Yorkers to take back Zucotti Park and restore it to its rightful owners who have maintained it for the public to enjoy. It’s past the time for our confused mayor to step up to his primary responsibility - not to provide unbridled latitude for squatters to claim freedom of expression, but to provide for ordinary workers and residents in this city the minimum they are due - a semblance of order and undisturbed access to their jobs and homes.
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