Whatever happens next in Manhattan for Occupy Wall Street, after a 1 a.m. eviction by police Tuesday, it is remarkable that the encampment was allowed to remain in Zuccotti Park for so long. This would have been unimaginable in the past. Although the mayor’s responses have been erratic, few were confident at the movement’s outset that he would exercise any restraint.
The city had successfully limited dissent with Orwellian “free speech zones” during economic summits and political conventions for years. The police were out in force and with video cameras during the National Republican convention a few years ago. Back in September, when all this started, few thought the city would allow the protesters to stay in the park one night, let alone until November.
Detractors say they don’t understand what the Occupy Wall Street protesters want, but in one important aspect, the movement has been a success. If you ask just about anyone these days if they know what is meant by the 1 percent, they will have at least an inkling. The New York encampment and the others around the country have put the vast prosperity gap in the United States into the public consciousness.
Whether it will lead to reforms that the poor and working class can take to the bank remains to be seen, but Americans are talking about it, and that’s a start.