Zuccotti evacuation made to derail Occupy message
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 19:11
It seems unlikely the New York City police department's early morning enforcement of the evacuation of Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15 was timed with maximum compliance in mind.
If you've ever been camping, you probably know taking down a tent is best done during daylight hours.
But the New York City Mayor's Office tweeted at 1:19 a.m., "Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protestors can return after the Park is cleared. #ows."
The chosen time, along with the thought of protesters being asked to break camp with the promise of being allowed to return once the park was cleared, on the surface appeared to be nothing more than intimidation and harassment.
Confused by the choice of time, I went to get a professional perspective from FGCU Police Chief Steven Moore, who offered a couple practical reasons why the NYPD might have been instructed to clear Zuccotti Park during the overnight hours.
Chief Moore suggested the time could have been ideal because the "fewest number of people" would be impacted.
He explained the decision probably would have taken into account not only the number of protesters, but also the general public and local businesses.
Chief Moore further theorized the early morning enforcement could have revolved around the park's posted closing time—explaining why protesters could not be asked to leave when the park was open because they would have a right to be there.
While Chief Moore's reasoning was solid, further research confirmed several unique circumstances surrounding Zuccotti Park.
First, the park is privately owned and operated, which means the property owners, not the city of New York, set the guidelines for park usage.
Second, while business hours for the adjacent building are Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., Melissa Coley, Vice President of Investor Relations & Communications for Brookfield Office Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, confirmed in an email the park is open 24 hours a day.
In a press release posted on the mayor's website, Mayor Bloomberg stated "This action was taken at this time of day to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood."
If Mayor Bloomberg had wanted a peaceful, orderly exodus from Zuccotti Park, he could have chosen any of the daylight hours.
Maybe he could have chosen sunrise. But it appears his words of reduced confrontation clashed with the action of the NYPD.
The time chosen appeared designed to maximize the potential for conflict.
Since the park doesn't close and offices don't open until 8 a.m., let's consider a couple possible reasons why Mayor Bloomberg might have sent the NYPD to clear out Zuccotti Park at 1 a.m.
There have been countless photos and videos of members of the NYPD and law enforcement officials around the country using unnecessary force.
Most general use cameras and video equipment record better with sufficient light. Nighttime camp raids are more difficult to record clearly unless high grade or professional equipment is used.
Moving under the cloak of night decreases the opportunity for detailed, clear quality in incriminating videos.
It's also likely some of the protesters would have been attempting to sleep at that time. Sleep deprivation makes compliance to instructions more difficult.
Requiring the protesters to break camp at that hour was likely to cause confusion and chaos. After all, it's difficult enough to tear down a tent in the dark. The task is more daunting when deprived of sleep.
It's important to the opposition to portray Occupy protesters as aimless, jobless trouble makers because it shifts focus away from the issue of removing corporate money from politics.