After weeks of raucous protests and fawning media coverage, the Occupy Wall Street movement finally has worn out its welcome.
Since it kicked off in New York last month, OWS has styled itself as a populist campaign. In its own mythology, it represents the voiceless “99 percent” against the ostensibly rich and greedy Wall Street executives in the top “1 percent.” Considering that the top 1 percent already bear the largest share of the country’s tax burden, this class warfare-driven charge never quite stuck. But now the OWS protestors have a bigger problem. As the protests have dragged on, turning city parks and plazas across the country into open sewers and crime havens, the everyday people the protestors claim to champion are turning against them.
The latest demonstration of the movement’s plummeting popularity comes from Oakland. City officials were initially supportive of the OWS campaign, with mayor Jean Quan, a Democrat, justifying the protestors’ misbehavior on the grounds that “democracy can be messy.” But having watched the protestors turn the plaza surrounding Oakland’s City Hall into a garbage-filled trouble spot – complete with fire hazards, public urination, rats, vandalism and other criminal activity – the mayor decided that it was time to clean up the mess.
Oakland police did just that this week. Following repeated warnings to the protestors to pack up because they were illegally camping in the plaza – warnings many of them chose to ignore – the police moved to clear out the site, arresting some 85 protestors in the process. Undeterred, a mob of 1,000 protestors armed with rocks and bottles tried to reoccupy the plaza by force, prompting clashes with riot police. When the tear gas cleared, the protestors seemed to have been successfully evicted.
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