The epidemic of foreclosures and unemployment during the past few years has added members of the middle class to the homeless population. Homelessness among returning veterans who suffer from PTSD and alcoholism and drug addiction and other war-induced illnesses has skyrocketed too.
So is it any wonder that Zuccotti Park and other "Occupy" sites have become magnets for homeless people looking for a little food, warmth and companionship?
The New York Daily News , which has been right on top of the day-to-day coverage of all things Zuccotti Park, ran a piece by Harry Siegel yesterday claiming that NYPD has been "dumping" skid row denizens into the park. Protesters suspect that Mayor One Percent, Michael Bloomberg, is behind an orchestrated campaign to disrupt the encampment by filling it with the dregs of humanity. However, as with every other ploy that he and his minions have used to try to destroy Occupy, Bloomberg's alleged move is having an unanticipated effect. Far from causing fear and loathing among the "normal" occupiers, the disturbed arrivistes are getting some help and tough love from the park's own security detail.
By all accounts, the park "police" have a lot more heart than the city in dealing with the troubled souls. There are social workers in the park population who know just what to do and who to call. And if the new arrivals cause enough trouble, they're being kicked out under a newly enacted "Code of Conduct." From today's News:
“If you want to be part of our group, you have to be civilized,” said Paul Isaac, 45, who is part of Occupy Wall Street’s security team. “Unfortunately, some people come to disrupt the peace.”
The list includes rules against stealing, sexual harassment and hurting others - including their feelings. The group also put a ban on fuel, weapons or drugs in the park..
The alleged dumping of the destitute and the addition of the homeless to the Occupy sites has finally forced the previously invisible reality of extreme poverty into the national spotlight. Poor people never had a lobby or a voice before, and now they do. "Nickel and Dimed" author Barbara Ehrenreich writes:“Basically, we want people to respect one another,” Isaac said.
Homeless people never had neighbors with cell phones to record police brutality as they were rousted from their tent cities, and now they do. They never had a reporter walk up to them and ask them about their lives, and now they have a chance to tell their own stories. For every abusive or obnoxious derelict, there are ten more who are living lives of quiet desperation as the cold winter closes in. People in this movement are watching out for one another at the same time they're being mad as hell at the banksters and the thieves.What occupiers from all walks of life are discovering, at least every time they contemplate taking a leak, is that to be homeless in America is to live like a fugitive. The destitute are our own native-born “illegals,” facing prohibitions on the most basic activities of survival. They are not supposed to soil public space with their urine, their feces, or their exhausted bodies. Nor are they supposed to spoil the landscape with their unusual wardrobe choices or body odors. They are, in fact, supposed to die, and preferably to do so without leaving a corpse for the dwindling public sector to transport, process, and burn.
And you can take the NYPD's non-denial denial about the dumping allegations with a grain of salt too. Police, hospitals and prisons all over the country have been caught in the act on numerous occasions literally discarding the humanity who just don't fit into "normal society." The most egregious case ever caught on film was that of a confused woman, still in hospital gown, being abandoned on a Los Angeles city street by an ambulance. LAPD said it was common practice for outside law enforcement agencies to act as taxi cabs to bring derelicts from outside the city limits for dumping on skid row.
The jackbooted storm troopers of the NYPD, the pepper spray, the orange kettling mesh, the mass arrests have only served to solidify public support of the protesters. So the latest ploy of exporting addicts and drunks to the camp sites may simply be the next phase of the Oligarchy's attempt to destroy the movement. This, from Allison Kilkenny of "In These Times":
This action forces OWS to focus its energy internally rather than externally. Now, the group is busy managing its own people, worrying about drug deals and dangerous behavior from possibly foreign enemy forces. This was focus that had previously been aimed outward and upward - targeting what OWS calls the "one percenters."
Like when a magician uses a distraction technique to draw the audience's attention away from a sleight of hand, the NYPD and Bloomberg's administration may be using addicts to distract from what they're actually doing, which is attacking OWS on multiple levels, and ingeniously, making it look like they're not attacking the group at all.One of the precursors to Occupy Wall Street was a campout protest over the summer called "Bloombergville." Demonstrators had planned to "occupy" the front of the mayor's residence one night, but then called off their plans as a token of respect when Hizzoner's elderly mother passed away. NYPD later arrested the group for blocking a different sidewalk and they disbanded. Temporarily, as it turned out.
Bloomberg may be one of the richest of the overbearing overlords of the universe, but that doesn't mean he has any class. He can't hold a candle to the humanistic souls he professes to despise, and so obviously fears.