If this is true (h/t), it represents one of the more cynical actions I’ve seen from law enforcement, whose job it it to serve and protect, in a long, long time. According to Harry Siegel, cops in New York City are re-routing aggressive, drunken individuals picked up in parks across the city down to the protest site, taking advantage of the open-source nature of the protests.
The number of non-participants taking advantage of the resources that the activists have provided — free food, clothing, tarps and sleeping bags, hand-rolled smokes and even books, not to mention a sense of protection from the police, who have increasingly left the park to protect itself – has exploded over the past week, and is threatening to define the occupation itself and overshadow its political and social ambitions. Despite those resources, “spanging” (spare-changing, or panhandling) at Zuccotti has become commonplace, as have fights, near-fights and open-air drug sales [...]
The NYPD seems to have crossed a line in recent days, as the park has taken on a darker tone with unsteady and unstable types suddenly seeming to emerge from the woodwork. Two different drunks I spoke with last week told me they’d been encouraged to “take it to Zuccotti” by officers who’d found them drinking in other parks, and members of the community affairs working group related several similar stories they’d heard while talking with intoxicated or aggressive new arrivals.
The NYPD’s press office declined to comment on the record about any such policy, but it seems like a logical tactic from a Bloomberg administration that has done its best to make things difficult for the occupation — a way of using its openness against it.
“He’s got a right to express himself, you’ve got a right to express yourself,” I heard three cops repeat in recent days, using nearly identical language, when asked to intervene with troublemakers inside the park, including a clearly disturbed man screaming and singing wildly at 3 a.m. for the second straight night.
“The first time I’ve heard cops mention our First Amendment rights,” cracked one occupier after hearing a lieutenant read off of that apparent script.
Emphasis mine. I don’t think that the protest movement would have much of a problem using some of their bounty to share with people who are troubled or homeless; they are the 99% too, after all. But this rises to the level of the cops seeding the protest site with unruly, aggressive, perhaps mentally ill types. And I’m sure they’re ready to point afterwards at the conduct they helped to instigate. They’re using Zuccotti Park almost as a holding pen for types that would normally spend the night in the city lockup or drunk tank.
I’m really no stranger to this in Los Angeles. For the last decade I’ve lived in cities that have been more welcoming to the homeless than their neighbors, and as a result, more of the homeless gravitate here. But in addition to that, there have been documented cases of other beach cities and local hospitals dumping the homeless in high-service areas like Skid Row downtown, and some of the other Westside cities. “Take it to Skid Row” is similar to “Take it to Zuccotti.” As Digby writes, “This appears to be a conscious effort to sabotage the movement. And it may work.”
If Occupy Wall Street makes it through all of this, with so many forces arrayed against it, the movement will prove itself quite durable.