Occupy Wall Street Hurting the 99 Percent

The Occupy Wall Street protests are, ironically, hurting small business owners and others in the 99 percent.

The Occupy Wall Street protests are, ironically, hurting small business owners and others in the 99 percent.

Alicia Ciccone, Huffington Post (“Occupy Wall Street Causing Problems On Main Street“):

As the Occupy Wall Street protests lurch into their third week, the movement appears to be gaining steam. What began in New York’s Zuccotti Park has spread to cities across the country, and has become emboldened by well-publicized arrests and celebrity supporters. But the group that says it’s fighting against banks and corporations on behalf of the “99 percent” of America’s “have-nots” may have caught Main Street in the crossfire — with their continued presence causing big headaches for nearby small businesses.

“Usually, there are hundreds and hundreds of people in this area,” said Stacey Tzortzatos, owner of Panini & Co. Breads, which sits adjacent to Zuccotti Park. “People do not want to have to pass through the crowd or walk through the park to come to my business — so they go elsewhere.”

[…]

For Tzortzatos, the “occupation” has resulted not just in a loss in business. “I’ve had a lot of damage from the protesters,” she said. “I’ve had to put a $200 lock on my bathroom because they come in here and try to bathe. The sink fell down to the ground, cracked open, pulled the plumbing out of the wall and caused a flood. It’s a no-win situation. If I open the restroom for one, 30 people line up outside, disrupting my business.”

A manager at the nearby Essex World Cafe — who asked to remain anonymous — shared similar complaints. Referring to three young men waiting at the end of the counter, he explained, “They want to use the toilet, the phones, we give them free water and free ice. They sit here and don’t buy anything, but they recharge their phone batteries with our plugs, and I tell them, ‘Hey, if you guys are going to come, I need to do some business here. We are suffering, too!’ And then they start with their own words, going against you.” The three young men eventually left the cafe, each carrying large containers the staff had filled with hot and cold water for them.

This manager also cited damages, including graffiti on his restroom walls. “For eight and a half years, there was nothing on those walls,” he said. “Now it says ‘Viva la Revolucion’ everywhere. Yes, ‘Viva la Revolucion,’ but don’t write it on my toilet. I let you use my facilities without being a customer and this is what I get?”

This is anecdotal and Ciccone notes that some business owners are sympathetic to the protestors, despite the inconvenience they’re causing.

None of this has to do with the merits of the cause. The nature of mass protest movements is that they cause problems for people in surrounding areas, often people who would otherwise be sympathetic to the movement.

That this particular movement has attracted a lot of young people with little respect for the property of others doesn’t reflect well on it. But, again, that’s a function of demographics rather than politics.

Alas, American protest movements had their zenith with the civil rights marches of the 1960s, when clean scrubbed folks in their Sunday best walked in quiet dignity and shamed the nation. Everything since then has been a pale imitation.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    lolz, if there was a wimpy hook with which to take on a increasingly serious issue, this is it.

    Occupy Wall Street spinoffs forming in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis

    (I expect small business to sell a lot of coffee and donuts, on those days.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: 100 people can be found to protest damned near anything. Memphis proper has over 600,000 residents and the metro area is over 1.3 million. The University of Memphis alone has over 20,000 students.

  3. john personna says:

    I just chose that one because it was far from Wall Street, and the furthest I’d seen so far. Two or three days ago I would not have predicted spin-off protests in the south.

    It shows though that there is some kind of vibe. I think Ezra Klein’s Who are the 99 percent? has the best summary of what that vibe is.

    And of course that summary dovetails with the data we have on “under 30” unemployment (worst since WWII) and etc.

  4. john personna says:

    Oh, as I’ve said, I like Felix Salmon’s review of Klein’s article.

    I think Salmon makes a good case for why this protest has a foundation.

  5. dana says:

    This is anecdotal” and
    That this particular movement has attracted a lot of young people with little respect for the property of others doesn’t reflect well on it. But, again, that’s a function of demographics rather than politics.” seem to be contradictory statements.

    If it’s anecdotal, you can’t follow with the general assertion that young people don’t respect property. And if someone can afford to rent a building to start a business on Wall St., they’re not hurting, friend.

    This article could be vastly improved by citing some income information for the business owners around the area, comparing sales year over year, or doing some research on the collective values of the young demographic you seem so inclined to dislike. You might be surprised to learn that we donate and volunteer more than Gen Y, we have fewer tattoos and commit fewer crimes, we have more education-related debt and are more likely to live with our parents after college than any previous generation. Pew did some great work.

    I live inside the beltway in Alexandria, VA and am sure from here you haven’t seen much of a movement. All publicity is good publicity, so thank you anyway.

  6. Mike Fink says:

    Well this could at least be much more biased and uneven, if larger news media institutions are any indication. These sorts of things are kind of inevitable, but you don’t report on examples of members of the group trying to control this sort of activity. Did you know, for example, that on the 18th, after graffiti appeared in Zuccotti Park, that protestors got right to it with acetone and scrubbed clean the granite benches in the park? You can’t control for property damage that takes place out of the view of the protests in general. These are the actions of some individuals that can’t reflect on the constitution of the protests in any real way: this is not just politically isolated from the cause, it is personally isolated from the protests.

    It is moreover difficult simply based on the geographic location of the protests. Think about who would have been exposed to this kind of renegade activity if the protestors were allowed to occupy the space they were initially interested, Wall Street proper. It wouldn’t be mom and pop shops, that’s for sure. Even if individual police officers probably care more about mom and pop, they don’t “donate” multiple millions of dollars to NYPD; they haven’t paid the protection money so they don’t get inviolable space.

    I think this is an ethical and strategic concern of the various Occupy movements springing up. It should be discussed and when assholes with paint markers get caught red-handed they should be publicly shamed. Your article points out that these are isolated incidents, but it doesn’t go the extra step to point out that these incidents have been and are being commented on by the larger protest movement, and there have been real and symbolic actions made towards stopping this activity when at all possible. Thanks,

    -Mike

  7. Alas, American protest movements had their zenith with the civil rights marches of the 1960s, when clean scrubbed folks in their Sunday best walked in quiet dignity and shamed the nation. Everything since then has been a pale imitation.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Nowadays, it’s just screaming on both sides.

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    @James

    This post is sarcastic, right? Some hippies came in, charged a cell phone and asked for water. Oh, the humanity. Another person had to “put a lock” on his bathroom, because people walking right by him as they entered his business were using it. His sink “collapsed” (which, by the way, I noticed he does not say was caused by the protestors); he suggests his bathroom can’t handle the traffic. Oh, the horror.

    If we don’t stop these protestors it’s only a matter of time before all the foot traffic permanently scuffs the tiled floors. Where will it end?

  9. john personna says:

    Heh, a good comic on this.

    I guess that’s James speaking 😉

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    Alas, American protest movements had their zenith with the civil rights marches of the 1960s, when clean scrubbed folks in their Sunday best walked in quiet dignity and shamed the nation. Everything since then has been a pale imitation.

    This is an argument against protest? You don’t like the aesthetics?

    This just in, there is one, I repeat, one way to protest properly: put on grandpa’s suit and remain totally silent.

    I’m beginning to wonder if you understand that things change over time. The corporate media aren’t going to cover a silent protest. They are going to cover zombies. It’s that simple. If the young want to dress up as Count Chocula as they sit on a street corner that’s fine by me. I don’t really give a damn what the elderly think of their comportment.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Those lauded Civil Rights marches were, in most cases, violations of the law. They couldn’t get permits, their mere presence was in many cases a violation of Jim Crow laws, and the response was very often police dogs, batons and water cannon. I imagine they disrupted some local businesses.

    And of course at the time they were roundly condemned by conservative bloggers. . . Oh wait, we didn’t have bloggers back then. But I think we can all imagine the bloggers of the early 1960’s and what they might have said. Same thing conservatives said about the anti-Vietnam marches, women’s rights marches, gay rights marches, and indeed anything at all that threatens the status quo.

    The GOP has assisted in the devaluation of American democracy and the concentration of almost all relevant political power in the hands of people like the Koch brothers. One man one vote is a joke. And when that happens people find other ways.

  12. anjin-san says:

    despite the inconvenience they’re causing.

    If you want to get James’ dander up, cause an inconvenience. There is a rumor that some sky waiters are participating in these protests.

  13. john personna says:

    Some poignant notes here, at the tumblr “we are the 99 percent” photo stream.

    As others have noted, [liberal arts degrees and] college loan debt is a big theme.

  14. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Occupy Wall Street??

  15. Nikki says:

    Shorter James Joyner:

    You hippie kids get off my lawn!

  16. samwide says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I imagine they disrupted some local businesses.

    Just absolute hell on lunch counters, as I recall.

  17. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    They couldn’t get permits, their mere presence was in many cases a violation of Jim Crow laws, and the response was very often police dogs, batons and water cannon. I imagine they disrupted some local businesses.

    And of course at the time they were roundly condemned by conservative bloggers. . .

    You mean Democrat bloggers who wrote in support of the actions of Democrat Bull Conner and Democrat George Wallace to name two Democrats who controlled the government and law enforcement when the marches occurred.

  18. anjin-san says:

    t Democrat bloggers who wrote in support of the actions of Democrat

    And in the years since then, the Democratic party has purged itself of such elements. The GOP not so much.

  19. JKB says:

    @dana: And if someone can afford to rent a building to start a business on Wall St., they’re not hurting, friend.

    And thus we have the theme of this protest, you appear to have some success and therefore you owe those of us who don’t feel we have enough.

    For the un-educated, covering the rent for a Wall Street business where the customers does not translate in to not hurting. Many of these businesses could be just getting by or at least were before the protests drove their paying customers away.

    …we have more education-related debt and are more likely to live with our parents after college than any previous generation.

    No, you have credential-related debt, there is no evidence of education here.

    And if you find you can’t start life on your own but must live with your parents, perhaps one of your demands should be more streamlined regulation and lower fees for starting a business so that you can circumvent the evil corporations and not depend on Wall Street financiers to aggregate the large sums needed to start a business.

  20. JKB says:

    @anjin-san:

    By purge, I take it you mean, held such elements in leadership positions until their death in old age, i.e., Sen. Robert Byrd.

  21. anjin-san says:

    @JKB

    Your desire to change the subject from the GOPs current record on racial issues is very easy to understand. Keep dancing, by all means.

  22. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    You know JKB, to the extent that you recognize there are problems for these un- and under-employed, and are looking for solutions, I salute you.

    But I don’t think the … let’s face it .. the GWB game plan, really worked. It WAS tried.

  23. Barb Hartwell says:

    I am so sorry many business get caught in the crossfires of these protests, but to get the word out sometimes creates havoc. The people who truly feel passionate about Wall Street corruption do not wish small businesses to suffer, They want justice as they feel they have been robbed not only in money but also their dignity has been stolen. We have become legal slaves to them and they discard us like rubbish when they are through. I myself only wish to get a small portion of the pie, a living wage and to retire with dignity.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    There’s no point harping on Democrats: we bequeathed the racists to the GOP where they now happily reside.

  25. Moderate Mom says:

    I looked at the link provided by jp about the planned protests in Tennessee. The planned protest in Nashville ought to rally others to their side – NOT! A march down West End during rush hour? Are you kidding me? West End, a major thoroughfare, has three lanes on each side, with each of the outer lanes allowing street parking in parts. A march down West End will do nothing but create a huge traffic jam and just inconvenience and royally piss off people on their way home from work. Not exactly the way to get people on you side.

    As to Memphis, only 100 or so people? That’s a joke. John mentions the enrollment of the U or M. Heck, add Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College, the Memphis College of Art to that, and you should have upward of 35,000 college students available to protest. Add in our perpetually unemployed underclass, and one should be able to easily add in another 60,000 or so available protesters. And yet they attracted just a little over 100 to their organizational meeting.

    My son is a junior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and involved in Vol TV. I asked him if he planned on covering any potential protests for the station. He didn’t know anything about it.

    A huge movement it is not.

  26. george says:

    Some poignant notes here, at the tumblr “we are the 99 percent” photo stream.

    As others have noted, [liberal arts degrees and] college loan debt is a big theme.

    And uninsured health care costs. Which suggests that much of the problem with these individuals is the lack of universal health care and insane college costs rather than Wall Street (though the Wall Street bailouts were just short of criminal, either from the point of view of a fiscal conservative or from a progressive).

    WRT health care, they should perhaps be aimed at occupying the White House; in terms of college costs I’m not so sure, other than to go to State universities which tend to have much lower costs (and arguably give as good an education, though without the same prestige).

  27. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Really, they are happy that GW Bush appointed a black woman to the most power position in government during a war? And then a follow up assignment as the foreign relations face of the United States. Even that following the appointment of a black man to be that face, a man who in the early 1990s was the most senior military officer in the country (during another military campaign, I might add).

    And it isn’t the GOP who are showing up to disabuse Herman Cain for daring to hold conservative views.

  28. Drew says:

    “There’s no point harping on Democrats: we bequeathed the racists to the GOP where they now happily reside.”

    Where do you purchase your psilocybin?

  29. JKB says:

    @george: in terms of college costs I’m not so sure, other than to go to State universities which tend to have much lower costs (and arguably give as good an education, though without the same prestige).

    george, the problem isn’t education debt, it is credential debt. And the fact that they took out loans for degrees that had no rational possibility of providing an income stream to service that debt. Education is a fine thing but going into debt for it is foolish. Going into debt for a Liberal Arts degree is like going into debt for a singles’ cruise. You might have a good time, have a lot of sex but when it is over you still have to work to pay off the debt and you can’t shake the feeling of being screwed in an uncomfortable place. But you’ll always have the memories.

  30. john personna says:

    @Drew:

    Amusingly, the news this week was:

    Magic Mushroom Drug Has an ‘Anti-Aging Effect’ on Personality

    I have no personal experience, but it does seem intriguing.

  31. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    You and I may have spoken against those loans for low ROI degrees, but it is quite possible that those kids were raised up without hearing our argument. They may have gone from high school teachers, and high school counselors, to college loan officers, and college professors who all supported (nay, pitched) their loan and degree game plan.

    If that’s true, they might perceive it as a “social contract” because the authority figures they trusted told them it would all work.

    FWIW, I believe in the “college loan bubble” and that that Occupy Wall Street shows some aspect of it.

  32. JKB says:

    @john personna:If that’s true, they might perceive it as a “social contract” because the authority figures they trusted told them it would all work.

    Then I’d say they have gotten a Master’s from the School of Hard Knocks.

    BTW, you can get the same lesson for less money but more pain by trusting your military recruiter.

    And if it is true, they should be occupying campuses, not inviting the same lying professors to speak against “the man”.

  33. george says:

    @JKB:

    JKB, you might be right; my undergrad and grad degrees where in physics and then engineering, and paying off student loans wasn’t a problem. But I have noticed that in engineering there’s actually not much gain after ten years from going to a prestigious university – engineering degrees from MIT or CIT get your foot into the door easier, but in terms of actual career it doesn’t seem to make much difference after the first few years. And I believe there are studies which come to the same conclusion. Which means that someone who’s a good engineer from the South Dakota Institute of Technology (to make up a fictional college) will have paid much less for their degree than someone with a degree from MIT, but will if they’re a good engineer have the same outcome.

    Grad studies is different, but no one pays for their grad studies in science in technology; its all research, teaching and lab assistance ships. I, and a lot of my fellow students, were able to pay off some of the undergrad loans on what we made as grad students … though in retrospect even there the prof’s came ahead, since we did all the lab work, and it would have cost the profs much more to hire actual full time lab assistants.

    And that is basically because most of what you learn in undergraduate science and engineering isn’t cutting edge – in undergrad quantum mechanics for instance you get up to the Dirac Equations (circa 1945), and the only difference is the quality of your teachers … and often the top ranked schools have great researchers who spend as little effort as possible on teaching. I’ve always thought that I wasted a fair amount of money going to the university I choose – I’d have done as well going to a state university.

    And I’ve always suspected that in terms of actual learning, the same would be true for the humanities – people pay a lot for the name, but don’t really get a better education for it. And if, as you say, there’s not a job waiting for your MFA when you graduate, you might be better off going the cheaper route – you can still have a great time I suspect, and it’ll cost you less.

  34. george says:

    I should emphasis that I mean undergrad – going to a better school for grad studies definitely pays off.

    In terms of the issue at hand, I’m not sure that its Wall Street’s responsibility to hire MFA’s (or MBA’s or MSc’s) – as I said I think the bail out was criminal (and could have been spent on say getting something like universal health care which would have real benefits), but that doesn’t seem to be what the protesters are protesting.

    I feel for them, it must be an awful thing to graduate with a huge debt and not be able to find a job, but I’m not sure what the solution is – I suspect the answer lies more in government (for instance, not wasting money on foreign wars or bank bail outs) than in Wall Street.

  35. WR says:

    @Moderate Mom: Good to know you’ve raised your son to be ignorant of the world around him. Is he in the college Republicans, by any chance?

  36. WR says:

    @george: Except that state universities across the country are being gutted so that states can give tax breaks to the rich.

    This stuff is all connected. It’s a transfer of wealth from the great mass of the country to the top few.

  37. catfish says:

    @Ben Wolf: It is sad that the honest, working class people are the ones being affected most by this phony “protest”, which is nothing but a drug party being held by spoiled brats whose parents are spending thousands for their college tuition, dorm rooms, pizza and beer allowances, ipods, ipads, laptops, etc. These kids are the beneficiaries of the greatest economic growth in history. They need to get back to their classes or play stations and quit making such a big mess, one that the taxpayers will have to clean up. It is well past time for the mayor and police to clean these people out so that the honest, working people of NYC can get back to earning a living.

  38. Moderate Mom says:

    @WR:

    I didn’t say he wasn’t aware of the Occupy Wallstreet protest in New York. He hadn’t heard anything about the group in Knoxville. Considering he’s a journalism major and writes a lot of the news stories for Vol TV, apparently the group hasn’t made enough noise in a small city like Knoxville to attract the attention of the student body yet. Maybe they’ll get loud enough for the almost 30,000 students at the University to notice them.

  39. An Interested Party says:

    Which suggests that much of the problem with these individuals is the lack of universal health care and insane college costs rather than Wall Street (though the Wall Street bailouts were just short of criminal, either from the point of view of a fiscal conservative or from a progressive).

    But that is the point…when Wall Street was hurting, much of the hurt caused through its own actions, it was bailed out and we were told that had to be done otherwise the economy would completely collapse…meanwhile, when we see individuals suffering from lack of health care or having to pay back insane college loans, they are told to suck it up and figure out their own way to fix their problems…heaven forbid that such people should look to the government for the same treatment that Wall Street received…

    Where do you purchase your psilocybin?

    Can you disprove his claim rather than simply making a pithy comment? No? I didn’t think so…

    Meanwhile, in the past, I’m sure that the Tea Party crowd was dismissed in much the same way that Moderate Mom is dismissing this group…

  40. Ben Wolf says:

    These kids are the beneficiaries of the greatest economic growth in history.

    These kids are the victims of the greatest financial crash in history. It’s amazing how for some people the last three years haven’t happened.

  41. Dave Mowers says:

    “I’ve had to put a $200 lock on my bathroom because they come in here and try to bathe”

    A savvy business owner would rent a port o potty and shower stand to place in front of their establishment and end up with free advertising on every T.V. news network as they all go nuts over people being supported for exercising their constitutional rights!

    What kind of business owner, who pays exorbitant rent, doesn’t bother to make something profitable out of this event?

  42. Rob says: