The world is watching

Downtown Express photo by John Bayles

Over 6,000 people invaded Times Square on Saturday as part of a worldwide call to action initiated by Occupy Wall Street. The movement is now in its second month.

One of the most common chants during last Saturday’s marches organized by Occupy Wall Street was, “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching.”

But the statement is more than just a chant. Indeed, people all over the world really are watching — on their televisions, their computers and their phones. And they are watching us: our demonstrators, our police, our neighborhood, our city and nation.

We hope they continue to watch. We are proud to be the center of attention in a case like this. This country was founded as a reaction to censorship and the suppression of individuality. It eventually became a home for oppressed, poor and huddled masses from all over the world because of the freedom it offered and promised.

While the O.W.S. protestors have already succeeded on one level, namely by taking a topic like the increasingly unequal of distribution of wealth and turning it into everyday, water-cooler talk, there is still a long road ahead.

While we understand the rationale of a leaderless movement, in order for O.W.S. to keep marching toward their goal, responding to the local community’s concerns is a must. One need not be deemed the leader to accomplish this, but one must take responsibility for meeting with the stakeholders, elected officials and community members and then relaying their concerns to all of O.W.S. These concerns largely revolve around the notion of respect. O.W.S. proved they were earnest in their desire to keep the park clean by spending all of Thursday night and Friday morning scrubbing the park from top to bottom.

But the one issue concerning sanitation that has yet to be addressed is finding space for the demonstrators to go to the restroom.

We believe it is entirely appropriate for Brookfield Properties to step in, but not to clean the park. O.W.S. clearly is capable of that. Brookfield should allow three to five port-o-potties to be placed at strategic points within the square. We would bet that O.W.S., with the money they have raised over the last month, would gladly foot the bill.

This weekend proved that non-violent protest does not have to turn violent. On Saturday, as the O.W.S. movement was on display in 900 different cities throughout the world, and when in some cases the protests went too far, New York City exemplified the right to peacefully assemble.

Not too long ago another park captured the entire country’s attention and ignited a movement of its own and is now a part of this country’s history. Sadly, though, that park will always be remembered for the wrong reason — for evil, heinous actions committed in order to maintain the status quo.

The extraordinary police brutality that transpired at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama in May of 1963 was broadcast nationwide and quickly came to symbolize a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan has the potential to be the same, and the possibility to be different: the same in that it could be seen as a public park with unbreakable ties to a movement called “Occupy Wall Street” that tied together cities and countries and continents; and different in terms of being a park where nonviolent protest did not escalate into violent behavior and possibly end up frozen in history by photographs and televised images.

The whole world is watching, and all players in the O.W.S. saga need to step up their game. The demonstrators must continue to protest peacefully and their general assembly needs to redress quickly, and continually, the quality of life issues with the surrounding community. The N.Y.P.D. must show maximum restraint in their dealings with peaceful protesters.  And Brookfield must continue to do the right thing.