Another concerted effort to break the Occupy Wall Street movement is coming in at least four major US cities. Occupiers have been given notice to dismantle their camps. More riot cops, chemical gas and pepper spray?
It's the same story repeated over and over again across the nation. Mayors who say they support the Occupy Wall Street movement continue to order the protesters to remove their camps from public property. The implied threat, of course, being that police will use physical force to push the occupiers out.
The same refrain has been heard numerous times. In New York City, Oakland, Portland, etc., city officials invoke "health and safety" issues as justification for the crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators. The scenarios are always presented in the same language, as if the official statements have all been prefabricated and coordinated for political purposes.
Meanwhile, as Naomi Wolf points out in her article in the UK Guardian, 18 US cities are apparently getting their orders from the Department of Homeland Security and their overseers in the federal government. According to Wolf, this chain of command goes all the way up through the US Congress to the White House and President Barack Obama.
Now in Seattle, San Francisico, Los Angeles and Philadelpia the script is repeating itself. In the "city of angels", where the city council has endorsed Occupy LA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says, "Their time is running out." He wants the occupiers to remove their camp of over 400 tents from City Hall.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has told Occupy SF they must leave Justin Herman Plaza.
People living at that camp are reportedly very nervous because they expect a police raid at any time. On October 16th the San Francisco Police Department dismantled their original encampment, and earlier this week the police confiscated tents near 101 Market Street.
In the past few weeks Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has visited the Occupy Philly camp on Dilworth Plaza at City Hall, expressing his support for their movement. Now Nutter says the occupiers have got to go. On Nov. 25th he gave a press conference where he stated, "you must remove all of your possessions and yourself from that location within the next 48 hours." The protesters have been given until 5PM Sunday to pack up and leave. The mayor says they have been ordered to leave the area in order to make way for a $50 million renovation project.
Occupy Seattle has been camped at Seattle Central Community College for a month. Invited by a student group and endorsed by many of the teachers, OS has been grateful to be at a location where police have stopped harassing them.
Now college president Paul Kilpatrick has decided to push the occupiers off the campus. When the group first arrived, he admitted that there is currently no prohibition on camping at a state funded college. But on Nov. 23rd, Kilpatrick called an emergency meeting of the board of trustees. He urged them to pass a new campus rule - "no camping".
Occupy Seattle is challenging this rule change in the courts. On Nov. 28th both sides will be filing legal documents at the state capitol in Olympia. The OS legal team is requesting that the judge issue a restraining order to keep SCCC from evicting the demonstrators. They are claiming that the emergency rule is counter to state law.
It should be mentioned that no vandalism of public property has been committed, no windows have been broken, no violence against public officials has occurred at any of these encampments. The cities are alleging that the problem is that "homeless" people are living at the camps, and some of them have drug addictions and/or mental illness.
Of course the occupiers respond by explaining that government social services and healthcare have been cut for these folks so they are being fed and housed by volunteers from the occupy movement. In effect they maintain that they are providing a basic public service to the community.
In Seattle activists claim they are feeding 400 people per day for free while the city and the college complain about the cost of policing the camp. There is a major disconnect here between the reality of the situation and the sensational news coverage which has portrayed Occupy Seattle and other Occupy Wall Street groups as "unsanitary" and potentially dangerous.
It should be noted here that OS has provided for it's own portable bathrooms, food and other supplies. They have never asked for financial support from the college or from the City of Seattle. In fact, they claim that the use of security and police has been overzealous and unnecessary. The protests have been peaceful and the camp is policing itself to the best of its ability. Donations from labor unions, non-profits and private individuals and businesses have sustained the camp with no other outside means of support.
In the next few days law enforcement will be moving in on these camps and physically removing people from the premises. It remains to be seen whether the police will use violence again to clear these areas. Many of the protesters say they will not leave these camps voluntarily. How the arrests are made could determine how the activists respond. Will it be an orderly exit or another series of physical confrontations?
One thing is certain - the powers that be have decided to put an end to this movement once and for all. I doubt, however, that they will be successful in this endeavor. If anything, police actions could actually bring more people out to join the protests.