Occupy Union Square?

Yesterday I went to Petco at Union Square to pick up two 20 pound boxes of cat litter while they were on sale.  Carrying that cat litter was a pain in the ass because I couldn’t get a cab and had to take the bus, but that’s another story.

On the way to Petco, I noticed a lot of people standing around the 14th street side of Union Square with signs.  I’m not surprised.  It seems like there’s a protest there at least once a month or more.  There was a protest there over the Trayvon Martin incident, for example.

Union Square

I can only assume this group is protesting police brutality, but I didn’t stop to ask for specifics.  There was something about the way most of the people looked, the way they carried themselves, that screamed low class and potentially dangerous.  One guy looked homeless and the girl in the purple tube top (just to the right of the pink tree on the left of the photo) kept pulling her top up and down, like she was moments from stripping naked to add flavor to the protest.  I wondered if they were drunk or on drugs.  I know it’s not good to just throw a judgment out there based on how people look, but on the other hand, if you want to be taken seriously, you should look serious.

Union Square

The group of people protesting wasn’t actually that large.  It’s hard to tell from the photos where the protesters end and the normal Union Square crowd begins, but they mostly seemed to be huddled into one corner near that pagoda subway entrance.

Union Square

There were police hanging around and I had things to do so I just minded my own business and kept going.  The reason I wonder if these people are trying to ‘occupy’ Union Square is because I saw them there again today, including the guy that looks homeless.  He had a ruck sack with what looked like a yoga mat.  Maybe he slept on it?  Also, a few of them seemed to have luggage with them (right side in above photo).  The police were still there today too.

NYPD Overkill: More Police than Protesters

What ever happened to the Occupy movement?  Reports about the activities of the group used to be on television on a daily basis.  Did people lose interest after the eviction from Zuccoti Park?  Was that the end of the high drama that could keep viewers coming back to tune in to the news reports?

Or did the Occupy movement kill itself off?  The Occupy movement’s most touted feature could also have led to its own downfall.  Without a single leader to unify the movement and the ideology, the movement was just a static mob occupying nothing but time and space, but presenting no social change or even a unified list of demands that I ever remember hearing about.

Without a leader, everything was voted on by the entire group.  That sounds good in theory, but fails in implementation, which is why the US is a representative democracy and not a direct democracy (which is what they were implementing in Zuccoti Park).  A quick search of the web shows a recent Wall Street Journal article that talks about the Occupy movement and their current financial woes.  It also mentions that issues are being decided by a General Assembly now, so maybe problems associated with a lack of leadership became apparent even to them.  Or, maybe the problem was that when large sums of money started being handled, it required some sort of leadership and accountability.

Either way, when I think about all of the important movements in history, there have always been figureheads for movements, charismatic leaders that drew attention and promoted the desires of the masses.  South Africa and India had Gandhi.  The Civil Rights movement had MLK.  Who does the Occupy movement have that can present a unified ideology and a unified front, that can actually form a coherent ideology and set of demands to place before the US government and the people?  It’s fine to have a lot of issues under one roof, but without some set of concrete plans or desires, the whole movement begins to feel like a waste of time, and no one likes having their time wasted.

Soap boxing aside, I happened to run into a group of protesters on Monday at Union Square.  The group seemed tiny compared to what I remember seeing on the news and the only thing that really made the moment memorable was the absurd ratio of police officers to protesters.  In fact, I think there might have been more police present than there were protesters.  Perhaps it wasn’t without reason, since there was some commotion that caused a lot of them to run into the crowd before they even crossed the street into Union Square, but I can’t help but feel that more than anything, the police presence was exaggerated and a waste of tax payer money.

Unmarked police car.
Unmarked police car. It wasn’t the only one in the area.

Large group of police at Union Square

Large group of police at Union Square 2

Two rows of motorcycle cops

Small group of protesters being herded by the huge showing of police in the area

Group of protesters at Union Square

Police following a group of protesters at Union Square

Maybe they expected more people to be there?  It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, but … they even had half a dozen of those little Interceptors lined up waiting, as well as additional units stationed around the park…

Mini police cruisers.