Updated: December 22, 2011 8:06AM
Michael Bloomberg has handed the Occupy movement a golden opportunity.
Last Tuesday, New York City’s mayor issued a top-secret order in the wee hours. The NYPD was dispatched, swiftly and silently, to disassemble the dangerous disarray that had become Occupy New York’s headquarters in Zuccotti Park.
Bloomberg is a card-carrying First Amendment champion. He stood by the protesters’ right to dissent, but drew the line on their two-month occupation of a city park. He said “enough” to an encampment that had become a threat to security, sanitation and all things sane. Police evicted the tarps, tents, garbage bags and stench that was overtaking lower Manhattan.
Occupy New York squealed and went to court, claiming Bloomberg and his police force were oppressing free speech and brutalizing nonviolent protest. They lost. That’s a good thing.
Bloomberg did the movement a huge favor. If the occupiers hope to survive, they had better take the hint.
It’s time for The 99 Percent to get off their air mattresses and get something done. Occupy must drive its anger and energy into an intelligent action agenda that targets goals instead of real estate.
For two months, the movement’s headline-grabbing marches, clever sloganeering and potent message has occupied the attention of millions around the world. It has captured the imagination and ire of both proponents and detractors.
Yet the movement has been mired in fights over territory. Occupy is long on tired ’60s rhetoric but short on solutions. It has become known more for disruption and squalor than results.
Memo to Occupy: You have our attention. Now, what are you going to do with it?
Making noise is not a means to an end. Instead of beating drums, drum up a focused agenda for change. How about leading? Your quaint notion of democratic decision-making through amorphous assemblies is idealistic but not realistic.
A headless movement is a dead movement. Identify and train a cadre of poised, savvy and accountable leaders, and put them in charge. Dispatch other bright lights to run for office.
In recent weeks you have started to build savvy alliances with like-minded grass-roots community and union organizers. Those ties bring experience, numbers and political gravitas. Use them well.
Take a leaf from the Tea Party. For two years, that conservative movement has incessantly driven home one cause: Cut government spending. The Tea People won elections nationwide and helped set the agenda for the 2012 Republican presidential campaign.
Occupy, you must fiercely resist the left’s tendency to fall in love with laundry lists. You have haplessly spun out dozens of demands, from college tuition breaks to mortgage relief to help for the homeless. Instead, identify a single, burning issue (“it’s the economy, stupid”). Offer practical, out-of-the-box solutions.
Then watch out. If the Democrats are smart, they will co-opt you.