After the forcible eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters in several major cities, the media are aflutter, with the Los Angeles Times asking, “Where Does the Occupy Movement Go Now?” The New York Times headline poses the same question: “Jolted, Wall St. Protesters Face Challenge for Future.”
Why aren’t they asking the questions, Where does Wall Street reform stand after eight weeks of massive occupations and coverage? When will our politicians act? Or do they see their job as cleansing protesters from public spaces?
Now we learn that at least eighteen big-city mayors may have conspired to coordinate the crackdowns against protesters. Gas would be used, young people would be strong-armed and lives perhaps put at risk to satisfy the apparent demand of downtown developers and bankers to restore their version of normalcy.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said on October 26 that the LA occupation “could not continue indefinitely.” Someone in the media should formally request the mayor’s calendar of phone calls and appointments—along with the seventeen other chief executives—to determine when the conversations about the crackdowns occurred.
In light of the police actions in New York, Berkeley, Oakland, Denver, Portland and beyond—and as massive national demonstrations are about to take place—it’s not too late for the mayors to use their political stature to speak out about the crises befalling their cities.
Villaraigosa is the leader of the National Association of Mayors. In that capacity, he has engineered resolutions calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan and for reinvesting billions in meeting our urban needs. He has spoken out courageously against the brutal inequities of California’s Proposition 13, which through a loophole starves the state’s education budget while protecting absentee owners of huge commercial properties in urban centers.
If Villaraigosa and other mayors can get on the phone to talk about the alleged problems of the Occupy protesters, why can’t they, as well as other elected officials, get on their phones and launch a campaign to re-regulate and reform Wall Street, now that there is rising public support? In the meantime, they should provide safer platforms for dissenters to continue their permanent protest of financial institutions. The mayors could even lead rallies in their own financial districts.
Michael Bloomberg has been the mayor of Wall Street, not the mayor of all New Yorkers. It is time for the Un-Bloomberg.
The nation’s mayors should assert, first, that their mounting local Occupation problems are not their fault but derive from a national Wall Street scandal that affects their cities through foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment and rising citizen frustration. The disaster requires more than urban crisis management. It will take national debate and reform. Second, they should call on their senators, Congressional delegations and President Obama to seize the opportunity for change that has grown with the protests. As Ron Suskind reported in his book Confidence Men, Obama has described the Wall Street scandal as “a crisis borne of a failure of responsibility from the corridors of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington.”