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From the land of the free

Breaking up protests is such a concerned grown-up's job, Mondy Thapar writes.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2011 23:40 IST
Mondy Thapar

At 1 o’clock on Monday night, New York policemen told Occupy Wall Street protestors to remove their belongings if they wanted to continue to protest against the evil men of capitalism. According to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a bona fide capitalist by anyone’s reckoning, the protesters were told to temporarily leave Zuccotti Park where they were all gathered while the city’s sanitation department cleaned the area till the morning.

Reportedly concerned about the health and fire safety hazards posed to the agitators parked there since September 17, Bloomberg acted, allowing the police to clear the park of protestors. “I could not wait for someone in the park to get killed or to injure another first responder before acting,” said the mayor. Clearly, this was no Tiananmen Square situation. It wasn’t even the kind of police action belatedly but ultimately taken when rioters wreaked havoc in London a few months ago. This was like dealing with the nuisance value of agitated, but non-violent folks who were breaking civic laws and looked indistinguishable from homeless people to Wall Streeters and the nearby Park Avenue people.

Two things stand out in the overnight clearing of Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Well, three if you include Mayor Bloomberg’s rather manly use of the term ‘first responder’.

One, the 200-300 protesters evicted from the park were leaderless. And without anyone getting hurt by an NYPD lathi-charge (thankfully no Occupy Wall Street-version of Raj Bala, the woman who died after sustaining spinal injuries from the June police action at the Ramlila Grounds), the impact of the American equivalent of a Baba Ramdev or an Anna Hazare was missing. Two, the world over — whether at Tahrir Square or the Ramlila Grounds or Zuccotti Park — the authorities broke up protests in the name of being concerned about the protestors’ well-being. If that wasn’t funny, it would have been quite cute.

With the park cleared, at least temporarily the order of the world has been restored. Angry children have been hauled up by their collars and forced to go home. The adults allowed the rebellious young their raucous playtime for a while. But with office to go to now, the grown-ups looked at their iPad clocks, called for a curfew and sent the kids packing. After all, mommy and daddy know best.

The views expressed by the author are personal