Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Occupy “movement.” I put “movement” in scare quotes because, as far as I’m aware, Wall Street is still occupied by the same group of unaccountable interests as before. At least we have Elizabeth Warren.
While Occupy’s strike against Wall Street (however defined) has predictably failed, the lawsuits against ridiculous NYPD tactics continue. They didn’t get the “fat cats”, but they’re still suing the “attack dogs.”
And the court process is moving at its own, slow pace…
The Huffington Post has a great article about the state of the lawsuits filed on behalf of Occupy Wall Street:
From a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of 700 protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, to the cases of the women pepper-sprayed by a New York Police Department deputy inspector, to the suit launched by New York City Council members who argue their First Amendment rights were curtailed by arrests, the legal fallout from Occupy Wall Street has only just begun…
Many observers saw Occupy’s 2011 rise in New York as a product in part of the NYPD’s overreaction to protest. A little more than a week after the camp in Zuccotti Park began, a high-ranking officer pepper-sprayed several women in a protest near Union Square, which led The New Yorker’s John Cassidy to wonder whether NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was actually the “protesters’ best friend.”
It’s amazing to me that Ray Kelly still has a job.
The intimidation faced by Occupy protesters didn’t stop with the cops. Protesters complain that the legal process itself has a chilling and demoralizing effect on protestors:
Karina Garcia was a New York City schoolteacher when she was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1, 2011, along with hundreds of other protesters. The class action lawsuit brought on their behalf by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund alleges that they were tricked onto the bridge’s main roadway by the NYPD.
“For two years, I had to go to court every other month for something that I was completely innocent of,” said Garcia, against whom the charge of disorderly conduct was eventually dismissed. “It was a very punitive process. It was really trying to scare people away from participating in things that we have every right to participate in.”
Of course, this is one of the reasons that unfocused, general protests about “Wall Street” where never, ever going to work. You can cause a ruckus for a couple of days or weeks, but eventually the cops are going to crack your heads. Then, even if they’re wrong, it’s going to be years before the cops are brought to justice. This guy has it right:
As the Occupy movement wore on, and the initial shock of the pepper spray and Brooklyn Bridge arrests wore off, some demonstrators seemed to grow weary of the day-in, day-out arrests.
“I think a lot of people learned that the first couple times they beat you, you win in the public perception, but every time after that, the cops win,” journalist Nathan Schneider recently told The New Inquiry. “There’s a threshold.”
One of Bloomberg’s legacies is a police department that has had tacit authority to beat first and ask questions later. A big reason Bill de Blasio won the Democratic primary for mayor is that he promises to rein in the NYPD.
The Occupy movement never had the vision or the structure to cope with sustained police brutality or the slow moving legal process. As much as some Occupiers praised the amorphous, leaderless nature of the protests, that very structure is why it was always going to be ineffectual. You need leaders to sustain a movement’s courage when the police start cracking heads. You need organization to quickly and efficiently seek whatever legal recourse is available to make NYPD at least pretend like citizens have rights.
Occupy NYPD, Wall Street’s Praetorian Guard.