I’m very upset this afternoon. I received word this morning that Occupy Wall Street had been raided in the middle of the night–over 200 citizens were arrested, the entire camp dismantled, and everything thrown into the trash.
Three things about this event are most disturbing:
1. OWS had created a massive public library in the camp: 5,554 volumes strong. While some of the books were rescued, the vast majority of the collection was thrown into the trash.
Five thousand books, gone. Knowledge, destroyed. Here is an online database of the OWS library. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, no matter what your opinion is of the Occupy movement, this is abhorrent. The destruction of books has no place in a civilized society. It is certainly not a hallmark of democracy.
The OWS Library has a blog here, with photos, information, and personal accounts of what happened last night.
2. The press were not allowed near Zuccotti Park. Reporters were pushed back, forcibly removed, and told that there would be no reporting done last night. NYPD established a “no-fly zone” (note: they have no authority to do that. The air is the domain of the FAA.) in order to ensure news helicopters could not cover the removal, arrest, and destruction of the Occupy camp and its occupants.
Freedom of the press is just as important as freedom of speech to a democratic society. Journalists and reporters serve the same purpose as books in a democracy: to bring knowledge to the people, but also to ensure transparency and accountability.
Again, political beliefs and opinions on the Occupy movement must be set aside here. We cannot allow the freedom of the press to be infringed here.
Here is a roundup of links from journalists reporting their eviction from the area.
3. The police waited until the middle of the night to begin their operation. As with the removal of the press, it is a move that cannot be permitted in a free society. The timing, as with the eviction of the press, was to ensure the least amount of witnesses as possible. It is easier to accept unacceptable actions when you cannot see them.
How might you have reacted if you watched video footage of NYPD tearing down a library, and throwing book after book into dumpsters? How might you have reacted had you seen it with your own eyes?
It would have been very have to accept that. It would have been very hard to take Mayor Bloomberg’s word that this was truly about “public safety.”
It would have been blatant-in-your-face evidence that the property of the citizens protesting was not to be stored at a safe location for them to retrieve later. Unless you consider the dump to be a safe location, that is.
No, these three points are something that every citizen should be concerned about, regardless of what is thought about the protesters, the protest, or their tactics.
One lesson that Americans should have learned by now is to be very leery when a government figure proposes infringing on the rights of citizens in the name of “safety.”