Early Saturday morning, one of the last remaining Occupy camps was mostly dismantled by US Park Police and several protesters arrested. Despite the cordial relationship between the Occupiers and the local police, the authorities still showed up in full riot gear. Several even came in bio-hazard suits because of an unspecified “disease” in the camp. If this strikes you as a bit odd, it shouldn’t. This is part of a very deliberate strategy on the part of the authorities across the country to smear the Occupy Movement as dangerous, violent radicals. Bio-hazards suits? Really? It’s the middle of winter, of course, there’s “disease.” That’s what happens in the winter. But the police are playing a part for an audience that will eagerly lap it up and spread the word about how filthy and disease-ridden the Occupiers are.
The police claim that this is not an eviction. Due to the fact that the camp is set up on Federal public grounds, the protesters cannot be dispersed without very publicly defying the First Amendment. Even with the diminished presence of the movement, this would be a public relations disaster that would be hard to top; particularly in an election year. To avoid directly violating the rights of the Occupiers, the police claim that are simply enforcing the rule which states that while protesters can camp in the park 24 hours a day, they cannot use any kind of bedding to sleep on. This is akin to saying you can eat as much as you want as long as it’s not food.
This technicality is being used to clear out large parts of the camp. Police have threatened to continually check tents and arrest people in violation of the rules. Meaning that you have to sleep on the ground if you’re going to stay there. According to the NY Times, some of the protesters are convinced that this is just the first step in evicting the entire camp:
“This is a slow, media-friendly eviction,” protester Melissa Byrne said. “We’re on federal property, so they have to make it look good.”
It’s difficult to imagine she is wrong. Once the camp is re-organized and “proper” tents set up, the authorities will find that even forcing people to sleep on the ground will not make them leave, especially as Spring rapidly approaches. New excuses will be given as the camp is whittled away by onerous regulations that the police “have no choice” but to enforce. And this is how our freedoms are taken away: gradually, a bit at a time.
I strongly believe that once the weather warms, the powers-that-be that believe they have successfully quashed the Occupy Movement across the country will find that it was only hibernating. The American Spring is coming.
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