Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered to clear Zuccotti Park today, consequently leading to the arrest of around 200 protestors who have been camping in the park for nearly two months on the grounds that “health and safety conditions became intolerable.”
Bloomberg has been torn between whether to take any direct measures against the protests ever since the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. In the time that has passed, he has supported people’s right to protest but in recent weeks, in the wake of growing complaints from neighbours about how the protest has disrupted the neighbourhood and hurt local businesses, the mayor decided to act. Mayor’s sudden decision comes as a big surprise to the American public. The clearance of Zuccotti Park demonstrates fading of the American promise and commitment to democracy. It is never a good sign when non-violence is met with violence. If the citizens of the United States are prohibited in voicing their opinion, and thus are being taken away their freedom of speech by their own governors, how does America plan to maintain its exemplary role as global promoter of peace and democracy? After today’s event, can America still be referred to as democratic? Or is the country simply hiding its less open domestic politics behind a created illusion of worldwide promotion of democracy?
Despite the criticism that Bloomberg is currently receiving from the protestors and the supporters of Occupy Wall Street, the mayor is clever in his approach: He announced that “New York City is the city where you can come and express yourself. What was happening in Zuccotti Park was not that.” The mayor said the protesters had taken over the park, “making it unavailable to anyone else.” Furthermore, by laying the blame on poor health and safety conditions the decision to clear Zuccotti Park becomes an undisputed case as it would indeed be improper of the protestors to argue against public health after the numerous health care debates in the U.S. in recent years. Bloomberg is right in that the Park, initially created for everyone, has for the past two moths been an occupied space, with several access limitations for citizens who do not wish to participate in the protests. Especially, taking into account rumours about lack of health measures, it is not surprising that these conditions prevent ‘visitors,’ apart from the protestors themselves, on the territory of Zuccotti Park. Consequently, it can also be argued that the occupied space is a limitation to freedom for everyone.
Whether this marks the end of Wall Street Protests remains unknown. The possibility for continued protests is high, especially in the immediate aftermath of police’s forceful clearance of the Park. The public in support of the protests is in rage over mayor’s decision. However, Wall Street never sleeps, hence even if protestors relocate, Wall Street will continue to keep its eyes on those who oppose it.