OWS’ Seedy Underbelly

A righteous movement risks derailment by a handful of thugs and reprobates.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have gained national and international support for calling attention to structural inequality. They’ve gained added sympathy from several instances of police overreaction and brutality. On the flip side, there has been a lot of bad behavior ranging from fighting to crapping on police cars, prostitution, and public masturbation.

USA Today (“Report: Fights erupt among Occupy Wall Street protesters“):

Fights are erupting among Occupy Wall Street protesters, so much so that one corner of Zuccotti Park has emerged where protesters say they won’t go for fear of their safety, the New York Daily News is reporting.

Police officers also have been warned of “dangerous instruments” being concealed in cardboard tubing, the News says it has been told by unidentified police sources. “There is a lot of infighting in the park,” a police source told the news organization. “There is one part of the park where they won’t even go at night.”

Meantime, Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, is warning protesters at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan that he will pursue civil suits against anyone who assaults a union member.

Interestingly, the NYDN page linked in the story no longer exists and I’m unable to locate the story via either the paper’s horrendously poor search feature or a Google site search. Whether that should be taken as some sort of retraction or lends any interpretive value at all is unknown.

Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin’s Daily Cardinal reports that Occupy Madison has lost its permit.

City officials temporarily denied Occupy Madison a new street use permit Wednesday after protesters violated public health and safety conditions and failed to follow the correct processes to renew or amend a permit. The permit, which expired Wednesday at noon, required Occupy Madison protesters to relocate from their current space at 30 West Mifflin Street, also called 30 on the Square.

A neighboring hotel’s staff alleged voiced concerns about having to recently escort hotel employees to and from bus stops late at night due to inappropriate behavior, such as public masturbation, from street protesters. [emphasis mine-JJ]

In addition, officials agreed further occupation should not be allowed to continue without restrooms on site to avoid further public health violations. ”You can’t be affecting the safety and health of other people around you,” Madison Fire Prevention Officer Jerry McMullen said. “With the public health violations and the complaints I’ve heard, I don’t believe it meets the spirit of the ordinance to a street use permit.”

Occupy Boston is also having some issues, the Boston Globe reports (“Boston police probing threats possibly tied to Occupy movement“):

Boston police are investigating threats against department personnel that may be linked to the Occupy Boston movement, the commissioner said today.

In a brief statement, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis confirmed the investigation but would not dislcose the nature of the threats. He also did not identify who was targeted. “The Boston Police Department is investigating harassment attempts and threats directed at department personnel,” Davis said. “These threats appear to be generated by those either involved [in] or sympathetic with the Occupy Boston movement … We are taking the appropriate steps to address any potential concerns.”

Power Line‘s John Hinderaker points to other complaints and allegations:

More, via your go-to site for the latest news on the Occupy crime wave, Occupy Wall Street Exposed, which is back in operation after surviving two days of DOS attacks and hacks by liberals. The latest in the liberal perp-walk: in New Hampshire, an Occupier is charged with felony prostitution for trying to pimp a 16-year-old girl. In Phoenix, an Occupier flyer asks, “When should you shoot a cop?”

Some of this may be mere innuendo and overreaction but it’s undeniable that there’s a lot of really seedy activity going on here.

My instinct is to chalk it up to the nature of an organic movement that involves camping out overnight. The nature of that activity is that a certain number of undesirables are going to show up and, well, act in a manner that’s not particularly desirable.

Still, Occupy is getting to the point that the Tea Party reached long ago, where is has to go from an amorphous, decentralized group with some loosely shared set of grievances into something more organized. Otherwise, there’s a very real risk that the yahoos and reprobates will become the symbol of the movement by sheer default.

The Tea Party, which many of us see as the flip side of the same cause, of course attracted plenty of nuts and weirdos, too. Showing up at peaceful protests with rifles and sidearms tends to raise eyebrows. And there was plenty of thinly veiled–and occasionally blatant–racism and call for violence.

The Tea Party, of course, became simultaneously much more powerful and unpopular as it made the transition from amorphous movement to political organization. Selecting leaders and proposing policy initiatives naturally alienates a lot of people who previously supported a loose cause. Right now, Occupy Wall Street offers something for everyone. That’s a wonderful position to be in as it tries to gain momentum and attention; it’s unsustainable for very long.

FILED UNDER: General,
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:

    It’s possible that they stayed on the street a week too long.

    The movement off the street has grown stronger and … it’s harder for random crazy street people to insert themselves into a Financial Times editorial.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: A distinct possibility. As the weather gets worse, the ratio of scumbags to decent folk will get higher.

  3. Clarence says:

    This movement isn’t moving – it has been stuck in nuetral and now appears to be reversing.
    Sticking with 3-4 principles or goals would have been the thing to do. Now people have lost interest or been antagonized by all of the hollaring and noise – no substance. With no leaders or clear mission, this is what happens to any movement. Everyone says something different. How about joining the 99% out here who are really working and doing something substantive to make some changes? Next year, we can fire our leaders and hire new ones. Many of these OWS people now are arguing and combating each other. In the civil rights movements of the ’60’s, there were clear leaders that knew and put forth their mission, a mission that was accomplished with sacrifice, hard work, and determination. But those people clearly knew what they wanted and how it could be achieved.

  4. southrngirl77 says:

    Mr. Joyner,

    Your article seemed well-written until your last paragraphs where you showed your bias by talking about ‘sidearms and handguns’ at the tea parties and “thinly veiled” racism. Saying that it became simultaneouly more powerful yet unpopular I find to be incorrect also. The only ones it became more unpopular with were the people in this country who find our Constitution to be a huge hindrance to Big Government and those who feel entitled to the earnings of others. That would be the Democrats and those astroturf, Soros-paid #Occupiers that you speak of.

    What a shame you ruined an otherwise good piece of journalism.

  5. john personna says:

    @Clarence:

    This movement isn’t moving – it has been stuck in nuetral and now appears to be reversing.

    How do you figure that?

    Google News says there have been 5,450 news stories on “OWS” in the past 24 hours.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @southrngirl77: There’s simply no question either that people showing up at Tea Party rallies with guns and racist anti-Obama signs got a lot of attention or that the Tea Party has fallen dramatically in public approval ratings over the last 18 months.

  7. Clarence says:

    @john personna: @john personna: Yes – more news coverage and most of what I am seeing reports the same problems mentioned above. More incidents and problems that were not happening three months ago. The OWS finds itself not knowing what to do now. Control has been lost, and once that happens is difficult to get back: in this case a clear sense of purpose and mission has now dissipated.

  8. john personna says:

    @Clarence:

    More incidents and problems that were not happening three months ago.

    We can both point to positive and negative stories.

    To make that claim that you have “more” you need a count. Statistics.

  9. john personna says:

    FWIW, I have statistics:

    Forty-three percent of Americans agree with the views of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll that found a widespread belief that money and wealth should be distributed more evenly in America.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Maybe this will be a useful lesson in practicality for the few anarchists around.

    The theory was that an agenda would emerge. I think in broad outlines it has. But I don’t know that they ever even considered true leaders emerging, I wonder if that concept isn’t anathema to them. Michael Moore may be making a bid to be that leader, but he’s no Martin Luther King.

    Then again, the anti-Vietnam movement never had clear leaders, either.

  11. steve says:

    The OWS people have a tougher route to take. They are opposing Wall Street, the biggest of the big money groups. The Tea Party eventually settled upon lower taxes, a cause for which the big money groups are always willing to lend support. This was also a traditional GOP cause so they could integrate quite readily into an existing party structure, with some frictions. If OWS tries to integrate into the Democratic party, the frictions will be much larger as Wall Street has significant influence/control over them also.

    In some ways, they might fit better with libertarians, but most modern libertarians seem willing to concede any amount of power to the banks rather than have government involvement. You can find libertarians who give lip service to opposing crony capitalism, but they really just want smaller government.

    Steve

  12. Clarence says:

    @john personna: CBS polls: exactly my point – a month ago, polls had agreement at 60%.

  13. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t think OWS needs leaders, or candidates, or to follow the TP route. How well did that work anyway? A bunch of one-trick ponies who become spoilers to rational lawmaking …

    No, the best possible win is for them to shift all politicians and candidates toward their position. They need to make their broader demographic one to win in Nov 2012.

  14. john personna says:

    @Clarence:

    I don’t believe they did. Link?

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    Yeah, I think that’s right. As I wrote the other day, the net political effect will probably be to stiffen Democratic spines a bit. It’s a pity Obama is so compromised on the Wall Street issue or he could ride this wave.

  16. john personna says:

    BTW, as regards what’s “real” right now, news this week is that consumer spending is up, while consumer income is down. Credit is flat. That means consumers continue to deplete their wealth in this not-technically-a-recession.

    High unemployment. Falling wages. Falling wealth.

    … for the 99%, that is.

  17. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Obama turned out to have that big belief in expertise, that if the titans of Wall Street told him a thing, they’d be the ones to know. And so in his Lincoln-esque “work with enemies” plan …

    I’m afraid he’s just the wrong guy to get this, and so he has to take the hit.

    (They’ll certainly vote for him over Romney or Cain, but they won’t love him.)

  18. john personna says:

    More on what’s real, from the Wall Street Journal:

    Income Excluding Government Transfers Drops Again

  19. JKB says:

    @john personna:

    Sure people “agree” with the amorphous views of the #OWS, but let someone show up to occupy their lawn or share their Lexus and their agreement will evaporate. Just ask the #OWS people who are complaining about sharing their money and wealth with the homeless.

  20. JKB says:

    @James Joyner:

    Funny you never mention the person lawfully carrying the most provocative firearm was a black man.

    Or that at a protest open to the public, a group joined lawfully carrying firearms as part of their agenda against gun control.

    Or shall we define the #OWS by the thinly veiled and often blatant anti-Semitism and call for violence that have occurred?

  21. James Joyner says:

    @JKB: That’s my point: Any open, leaderless protest movement is going to attract people whose agenda and conduct detracts from the main theme.

  22. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: “Michael Moore may be making a bid to be that leader, but he’s no Martin Luther King.”

    I don’t think Moore has any interest in being a leader, and I’ve certainly never heard him say anything to suggest he considers himself an MLK. He’s a muckraker and a provocateur, and very happy (and successful) in that role.

  23. Stan says:

    @JKB: I’m Jewish, and in my lifetime I’ve found that antisemitism in the US comes a lot more from the right than from the left. Pat Buchanan is a prize example. So Occupy Wall Street doesn’t bother me a bit.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @WR:
    He was in Oakland at an event I attended yesterday. He was speaking and I was signing books. Driving up I heard him interviewed on TV – I don’t recall the show, it was on Sirius – and he seemed to be if not leading then certainly speaking on behalf of the movement, attempting to craft a take-away message. I don’t know how serious he’s being, and I passed on his speech in preference for a free hour at the bar.

  25. TBogg says:

    “fighting to crapping on police cars, prostitution, and public masturbation.”

    Also known as CPAC.

  26. TBogg says:

    Funny you never mention the person lawfully carrying the most provocative firearm was a black man.

    @JKB: Was there something about that particular weapon that made it more “provocative” than the others? (Rail gun? Detachable rocket launcher? Death ray?) Or was it because it was carried by a black man?

  27. ponce says:

    My instinct is to chalk it up to the nature of an organic movement that involves camping out overnight.

    The police just gunned down yet another crazy soldier from out local military base who had just randomly murdered someone earlier in the day.

    Our local news is filled with a constant stream of reports like this, soldiers from the local military base causing huge alcohol fueled car wrecks, raping local teenage girls, robbing banks, murdering innocent civilians or, more usually, their wives, etc., etc., etc.

    Please remove our military base and all the violent crimes that it inflicts on our community and replace it with an OWS camp and its minor problems.

    Please..

  28. JKB says:

    @TBogg:

    Was there something about that particular weapon that made it more “provocative”

    Well, if I remember correctly, the firearm had long smooth curves with a plunging fore stock. A a lower receiver just made for taking long hard cartridges up the pipe.

    But I believe the reason the media fixated on him was that he was carrying a AR-15 slung on his shoulder. The AR-15, if you’ll remember, is an evil black rifle much maligned as an “assault weapon”. Whereas, most others carrying were open carrying handguns.

  29. Clarence says:

    @john personna: Poll of Oct. 9-10 shows 59% favorable rating of OWS;
    Link:
    http://www.alternet.org/media/152847/4_polls

  30. G.A.Phillips says:

    A righteous movement

    lola better name would be astroturf made from recycled rubber dog poop.

    With donkey poop mixed in to give it a more natural look.

  31. jan says:

    The Tea Party, which many of us see as the flip side of the same cause, of course attracted plenty of nuts and weirdos, too. Showing up at peaceful protests with rifles and sidearms tends to raise eyebrows. And there was plenty of thinly veiled–and occasionally blatant–racism and call for violence.

    James, While I’m not saying you are necessarily wrong about the above statement, I’ve personally never seen any proof of raunchy, racial signage at tea party events, nor any violence, loitering, obstruction of roadways or by ways, unsanitary conditions, etc. Wasn’t it Andrew Breitbart who offered money ($100,000, I believe) to give to anyone who could substantiate claims such as the ones listed above?

    As far as nuts and weirdos being a part of the teas crowd, I guess it all depends on one’s definition of those types. The ones I saw, at the one event I attended, as well as photographed at events everywhere else, were costumed in Colonial garb, and the like, representing the era in which the name of their movement was derived.

    As for the current OWS movement, there is an abundance of photos, videos, from all political venues, visually depicting some of the more unsavory stuff going on this past month. I agree there is a more “organic” (nice way to put it) aspect to OWS, being that it is an overnight, long term protest. But, still is it fair to compare the behavior of these two groups, teas and OWS, with such an apples to oranges backdrop? Now, if the teas decided to do an encampment affair, all over the country, then it would be very appropriate to compare the conduct of the two, whether they were similar or different in their habits and presentations.

    Getting back to my initial point, though, can you provide any legitimate links of the teas carrying rifles and side arms to their rallies? I’m just curious……

  32. ponce says:

    can you provide any legitimate links of the teas carrying rifles and side arms to their rallies? I’m just curious……

    I love it when wingnuts pretend the information they claim they’ve never seen is just a quick Google search away, but they just can’t figure out how to do it::

    http://tinyurl.com/3t9gh7e

  33. Clovis says:

    @TBogg:
    Think this is the point that JKB was trying to make. There are reports of folks with guns at the Occupy rallies that are, seemingly, not being picked up by the larger media outlets and definitely not being deceptively edited.

    These occupiers remind me of the NYU Kimmel protesters in that they keep ineffectually going on about consensus . A “spokes-informer”, for want of a better word, at OccupyDC recently was filmed saying that they had the preamble to their constitution written, but only one sentence had been approved.

    The reasons for these demonstrations, other than inchoate but general dissatisfaction, just seem so nebulous that it’s kind of hard for me to grok.

  34. bandit says:

    It’s like the Simpson’s episode where Homer turns cannibal after an hour without dinner.

    At unOccupied Boston they made threats against and dropped a wooden cross (for some reason) on a guys doorstep – but it wasn’t actually the police captain it was someone elses house with the same name. Geniuses

  35. Liberty60 says:

    I wonder how many of the pundits listed have actually walked through an Occupy encampment, or attended a General Assembly.

    Yes, an open group will attract plenty of fringers intent on bad behavior. But this is nutpicking and concern trolling. (like Mr. Hind Rocket was totally going to support the cause of wealth inequality, but gosh darnit that guy crapping on a cop car just ruined it for him!).

    But the second point of the article is correct- that a tactic of public encampment tends to draw people who are not there for the same purpose as the organizers.

    Occupy is a tactic, of a much deeper movement. Once the tactic has run its course, we will move on to others.
    Our local Occupy group is discussing this very issue, of where do we go from here?

    As someone pointed out on this blog earlier, all groups in history have had these issues, of how inclusive should they be, how do they organize, what strategies and tactics and targets do they choose.
    The history we read in books is cleaned up and summarized to make it all look very tidy and clean, when in truth it was always messy and fractious.

  36. Scott O. says:

    Andrew Breitbart is a perfect example of one of the nuts and weirdos.

  37. anjin-san says:

    Getting back to my initial point, though, can you provide any legitimate links of the teas carrying rifles and side arms to their rallies?

    Golly gosh Jan, the internets sure are complicated. It took me almost three seconds to find this. Of course it may be one of those dastardly “false flag” ruses the America hating liberals are so fond of.

    http://www.therightperspective.org/2010/08/17/hundreds-bear-arms-for-2nd-amendment/

  38. jan says:

    @anjin-san:

    Golly gosh, anjin, considering that particular tea party event was dealing with a 2nd amendment right to bear arms, what did you expect these people to carry, chop sticks, or maybe some egg-beaters, perhaps?

    Here’s an excerpt directly from your ‘misleading’ link:

    Two hundred attended the Restore the Constitution Rally at the Guildford Courthouse in Battleground Park, openly carrying their pistols and rifles in recognition of a new law allowing people to carry guns at federal parks.

  39. ponce says:

    You’re welcome to look at my link, Jan.

    It has hundreds of photos of guns at Tea Party rallies.

  40. anjin-san says:

    @ Jan – are you a simpleton in real life, or do you just play one on a blog? This was your original question:

    can you provide any legitimate links of the teas carrying rifles and side arms to their rallies?

    Since you concede that it was a tea party event, and that people were indeed carrying guns, it would seem that I answered your question. Exactly what is misleading? Clearly, not only can you find tea party events where people are armed, there are tea party events were the organizers want people to be armed.

  41. john personna says:

    @Clarence:

    I tried to find that link and the 59% to see if there had been more than one measurement in that series. I couldn’t find that data.

    It is possible that you are right, but we really need a same-poll series to lock it.

    (I didn’t -1 you, that was somebody else)

  42. Ben Wolf says:

    Just @anjin-san:

    Jan’s message is what is simple: “The Tea Party does everything right while OWS does everything wrong, even if they both do the same thing.”

  43. john personna says:

    You know, as an OWS sympathizer, I don’t waste my time discussing OWS weirdos. I just say “yeah, that guy was weird,” and move on.

    I think that would be a good strategy for TP sympathizers. If someone shows up to a peaceful protest with an assault rifle, just say “yeah, that guy was weird,” and move on.

    Return to the core issues, the ones you think affect the whole middle class. Don’t get hung up on the side issues, or people will just think those side issues are your issues.

    And of course returning to serious discussion does not include “they want to camp on your lawn, they want to take your Lexus” bullshit.

  44. jan says:

    @anjin-san:

    Jan – are you a simpleton in real life, or do you just play one on a blog?

    When people have nothing constructive to offer the only ploy left to save face is call people names. That seems to be the course often taken by you, anjin.

  45. anjin-san says:

    @ Jan

    When your arguments are revealed to be nonsense time and time again, it seems the only ploy you have left is to complain that people are being mean to you.

    When people have nothing constructive to offer

    You asked a question, I, and others answered, and we provided supporting evidence. Seems kind of constructive to me. In my case, I linked to a right wing blog, so you cannot dismiss it as anti-tea propaganda. Now you want to change the subject. Imagine my surprise…

  46. Nikki says:

    Some of this may be mere innuendo and overreaction but it’s undeniable that there’s a lot of really seedy activity going on here.

    Yeah, and it’s all the fault of the corporate-controlled media because they know that OWS got the right target.

  47. ponce says:

    When your arguments are revealed to be nonsense time and time again, it seems the only ploy you have left is to complain that people are being mean to you.

    Jan is giving us a fascinating look into how the wingnut mind works.

    The way she willfully ignores (or avoids) any facts that don’t support her dogma is most telling.

  48. Silky Smooth says:

    “My instinct is to chalk it up to the nature of an organic movement that involves camping out overnight.”

    The OWS is not an organic movement. It is a cancer. And it’s not the nature of the activity of camping out overnight that draws the criminals. Instead it is the mindset of the protesters and the criminals. The protesters are naive. Some of them have been bussed in from other cities. They end up in places where they don’t belong even in the daytime. At night they’re at an even greater disadvantage to the local riff raff.. The protesters are foolish to think that all the people among them are there to protest.. The criminals see the protesters as easy targets – and they are.