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In Zuccotti Park

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the well-known Princeton professor of international affairs, writing in The New York Times, points out that from the first days of Occupy Wall Street news outlets in the Middle East paid close attention. Referring to the Tunisian vendor whose self-immolation set off the Arab Spring, she writes:

Go to the Web site “We Are the 99 percent” and you will see the Mohamed Bouazizs of the United States, page after page of testimonials from members of the middle class who took out mortgages to pay for education, took out mortgages to buy their houses…worked hard at the jobs they could find, and ended up…on the precipice of financial and social ruin.

The protesters in Zuccotti Park seem to have heralded the membership of a significant portion of our population in a new form of Third World, a development that our media and government appear to have been the last to absorb.

—October 13, 2011


Postscript, Monday Oct. 17: As Occupy Wall Street enters its second month, the status of Zuccotti Park as the symbolic nerve center of the movement seems more established than ever. On the night of Wednesday, October 12, Mayor Bloomberg made a surprise visit to the park, announcing that, at the request of Brookfield Office Properties, which owns and maintains the site, it would be cleared for cleaning. Afterward, protesters would be free to return as long as they obeyed the rules of the park, which include no storing of personal belongings, sleeping, or lying down.

The order, as with almost every attempt by the city to defuse the movement, seemed only to increase public sympathy for the protesters, revealing the depth of their support among some of the city’s highest-ranking elected Democratic officials. After conversations with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Daniel Squadron, a state senator, among others, Richard Clark, the chief executive of Brookfield, withdrew his request to the mayor for police “assistance” just before midnight on Thursday. Bloomberg appeared somewhat chagrined at Clark’s reversal, claiming on Friday that Clark had succumbed to “threatening” calls from the officials, and warning that in the future, “it will be a little harder…to provide police protection” should Brookfield change its mind.

In fact, it seems that what might have been a serious, possibly violent confrontation was averted. Unaware that the order to dislodge them at 7:00 AM Friday morning had been rescinded the night before, thousands of protesters (including hundreds of union members responding to an e-mail message Thursday night from the AFL-CIO) swarmed the park, planning to form a human chain around its perimeter to keep police from entering.

Their victory provided yet another boost to the protesters’ growing sense of confidence. The following day, Saturday, October 15, they staged a large, mostly peaceful march to Times Square, one of a series of simultaneous demonstrations that took place in eighty countries around the world. For the time being, at least, the protesters’ continued presence in Zuccotti Park seems secure.

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