COMMENTARY | The New York Daily News suggests the New York Police Department is attempting to sabotage the Occupy Wall Street movement by directing homeless people to the Zuccotti Park site for free food and a safe place to drink.
If this is part of a policy to undermine Occupy Wall Street, it demonstrates someone in the NYPD or in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office has the subtlety of a Machiavelli. It has had the effect of dividing Occupy Wall Street into warring factions, between a group of committed protestors and a group of free loaders.
Welcome to the problems of operating a welfare state, Occupy Wall Street.
The strategy also has the virtue of concentrating troublemakers into one place where they can be watched. If it also has the effect of making Occupy Wall Street more untenable, then so much the better.
It is not as if the Occupy Wall Street people are making it easier on themselves. Police are not welcome in Zuccotti Park and will not enter the area for anything short of assault. The so-called Security Committee does not have any power, save that of persuasion.
Undoubtedly the NYPD would prefer to remove Occupy Wall Street, with its burgeoning problems of sanitation, crime and now cold produced ailments the old fashion way. But lines of riot police with batons and plastic shields backed up by tear gas and water hoses are likely judged to be too raw for the video cameras to set into motion. The effectiveness of such a strategy has been called into question, in any case, because of the experience in Oakland, Calif.
The question arises, what is Occupy Wall Street prepared to do now? Whatever passes for an authority in Zuccotti Park seems incapable of maintaining order in a place that has rapidly devolved into a state of nature. But if the NYPD is invited in to roust out the vagrants and criminals from the area, it is likely all over. Police will be obliged to enforce all laws, and not just those against assault and rape. That includes drug laws as well as that part of the city code dealing with sanitation.
The Occupy Wall Street crowd may have pretensions of being like the army at Valley Forge, though the difference is that the Continental Army had discipline and a provost detachment to back that up.