Posted by: Mark Gimein on November 15, 2011 at 10:37 AM
Early this morning, the police moved in to clear Zuccotti Park. Whether this was the last day for tent city is still being argued in court. Mike Bloomberg, the city’s mayor (and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the publisher of this site) characterized the eviction as temporary, but clearly the city’s hope is that this will mark the end of the park occupation.
The images and video now coming out from the pre-dawn raid are troubling, and how the police handled it will be debated. If this is the end, it’s not the slow fade the city government (for whom the park has become an embarrassment) must have wished for. But it also does not follow the symbolic plot points—a 60 day anniversary, a blockade of the New York Stock Exchange—of the protest script.
I was at Zuccotti Park on Sunday evening, at the nightly General Assembly. Contrary to the barrage of reports on Fox News, it was far from the Hooverville that many imagine. It was substantially cleaner and better organized than it had been earlier in the occupation.
What was clear, however, was that the movement was being pulled in very different directions from within. What had started as a protest focused on disparities of wealth was morphing into a more general protest against the capitalist system. The occupation had always had a moral focus. As one sign posted at Zuccotti Park put it:
Occupy Wall Street isn’t just a jobs issue or a bank issue or a healthcare issue or even an immigration issue. It is a spiritual issue about what happened to the United States.
By Sunday what was at stake for the occupiers was not merely what happened to the United States. It was what happened to humanity. For a significant fraction of the occupiers, it had taken on the tenor of a revival movement, and was about not only transforming the economy but transforming people.
For many of those in the park, the protest against what those in the movement call the power of the one percent was turning into a broader utopian mission. The divide between utopians, who made up a significant fraction of those living in the park, and pragmatists both inside and outside was widening. As a man named Lorenzo put it at the General Assembly:
I have seen this coming for a while, occupier versus non-occupier. Now we are fractured because we do not know how to value things.
Some of the protesters planned to block the entrances to the stock exchange on Nov. 17, the two month anniversary of the occupation. It’s conceivable things could have come to a dramatic end then.
It’s equally easy, though, to imagine the Zuccotti Park occupation continuing for a long time, and slowly losing the original energy and focus. Eventually the pragmatists would likely drift away, leaving a utopian core. And utopian movements have no natural concluding point.
The goals of what has become known as the Occupy Wall Street movement and the occupation itself were evolving in different ways. The first and bigger group is essentially pragmatic, the second was becoming increasingly utopian. For the utopian element, the occupation of Zuccotti Park was a grand symbolic cause that could continue forever. For the pragmatists in the broader Occupy movement, this may well be an opportune time for it to end.
(Updated 1:00 PM)
Photographer: Craig Ruttle/AP