Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy: Is this a wise use of resources?

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I, as have many of us, have been following the various #Occupy efforts with some interest. News coverage asking the plaintive whine "but what do they WANT?" combined with all the various attempts to make it all just a bunch of DFHs, druggies, and so on. (Rather defeated when even the Washington Post has articles like yesterday (Wednesday, November 16) where they lede with an admission that maybe the #Occupy folks did have some points in mind after all):

The movement began as a protest of major economic and political issues, but lately the most divisive issue has become the protests themselves. The Occupy Wall Street encampments that formed across the country to spotlight crimes committed on Wall Street have become rife with problems of their own. There are sanitation hazards and drug overdoses, even occasional deaths and sexual assaults.
So, in this one article, the Post manages to paint the original effort as valid but now has lost its way. In the overall online world there is an oft seen type of commenter known as a Concern Troll. That quoted paragraph from the Post seems to fit the definition to a tee.

Let's examine this a bit though. One of the themes of people like Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo as well as many other mayors and governors around the country is how things are so bad economically that the states must cut back in so many services, laying off teachers, first responders, cutting Medicaid eligibility, rolling back unemployment benefits, and generally destroying both the social safety net and wages and benefits for state workers. Yet here it is, New York City can incur millions of dollars in overtime costs going after unarmed, mostly peaceful protestors (according to this from WNYC it was over $5M by late October), yet city agencies are scrambling for funds:
The council’s concern over the issue comes as city agencies are scrambling to find ways to cut 2 percent of their current fiscal year budget and six percent in the next fiscal year. Those rollbacks are expected to help the city save $2 billion dollars overall.
As of this past Monday, Oakland had spent $2.4M dealing with Occupy Oakland and Portland, OR had spent $450K just for this past weekend's activities. Cincinnati has spent $128K in overtime. Jon Walker at FDL Action also asked yesterday where the money is coming from for these police actions.

Yet somehow, cities such as Louisville, KY have managed to co-exist with the #Occupy Louisville folks, granting them permits through December 31. Louisville's mayor visited the #Occupy Louisville site in early October when one of my cousins was there - and he did it as a private citizen to see what the fuss was all about. No photo-op, no heavy duty police presence, just a man and his daughters. Today's Louisville Courier-Journal has a nice long article about the peacefulness of Occupy Louisville.

Albany, NY is having its own back-and-forth between the #Occupy Albany folks and local politicians. A few weeks ago, the Albany PD refused to make arrests:
ALBANY -- In a tense battle of wills, state troopers and Albany police held off making arrests of dozens of protesters near the Capitol over the weekend even as Albany's mayor, under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration, had urged his police chief to enforce a city curfew.

The situation intensified late Friday evening when Jennings, who has cultivated a strong relationship with Cuomo, directed his department to arrest protesters who refused to leave the city-owned portion of a large park that's across Washington Avenue from the Capitol and City Hall.
The arrests that have been made in Albany were made by NY State Police when protestors have been in a state park rather than a city park next door:
So far police have written 59 tickets to protesters who have broken an 11 p.m. curfew in state-controlled Lafayette Park, which abuts city-owned Academy Park where the protesters have established an encampment of roughly 50 tents.
The Albany County District Attorney has declined to prosecute the arrests made by the State Police. It seems the DA has made the decision that his office has more important priorities than accommodating Governor Cuomo's support for the 1%ers. From today's NY Times:
In Albany, the mayor, Gerald D. Jennings, has allowed protesters to camp out in city-owned Academy Park. But shortly before the protest began, the state imposed an 11 p.m. curfew on the adjacent Lafayette Park, creating an odd situation in which a line of bushes separates an area where the protesters can spend the night from an area where they cannot.

Some protesters have labeled their 50-tent encampment “Cuomoville,” and Mr. Cuomo himself as “Governor 1 Percent,” a nod to his opposition to the state’s so-called millionaires’ tax. One sign in the park featured Mr. Cuomo’s face superimposed on the body of a stately monarch; another depicted the governor as Emperor Palpatine from “Star Wars” telling a storm trooper, “Give the order to clear the parks!”


The Albany County district attorney, P. David Soares, who has a rocky history with Mr. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, said in an interview that he would not prosecute the protesters unless they behaved violently or damaged property.

“We’re really showing, by example, that it is possible to peacefully coexist with the people who are engaging in their First Amendment rights,” Mr. Soares said. “It can be done, and we’re hoping to continue doing it.”
I guess if crime rates are falling, especially for violent crimes, then folks like Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have to find some use for all those police so they create their own "Gangs of New York."

Uh, Governors? Mayors? Conciliation is a lot cheaper and less aggravating than confrontation - unless you really are wholly owned subsidiaries of the 1% and if you are, enjoy your retirements as your elective office future is not going much further, no matter how much you may fantasize about hearing "Hail to the Chief" played as you enter the room.

And because I can:

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