The New York Times continues to treat toublemakers at Occupy Wall Street as a fringe minority, but the Tea Party was "responsible for the behavior of people" at their rallies.
Sunday’s Metro section led with an above-the-fold look at the state of Occupy Wall Street as winter approaches from reporters Cara Buckley and Colin Moynihan, “A Protest Reaches a Crossroads.” They briefly noted the violence and criminal behavior at Zuccotti Park while providing plenty of room for excuse-making on the part of OWS, something reporter Kate Zernike most assuredly did not do for the Tea Party in her 2010 book on the movement, “Boiling Mad." Instead, Zernike suggested the entire movement should hold itself responsible for unsubstantiated allegations of racial slurs at a rally.
The signs seemed to point toward the end of Occupy Wall Street. The day after the city stripped the protesters encamped in Lower Manhattan of their generators and fuel, the Northeast was hit with a bone-chilling snowstorm that blanketed their tents and tarps with sleet and ice, and left at least one protester hospitalized for hypothermia. Yet the encampment at Zuccotti Park endured.
Seven weeks in, the protest has become a fact of life in New York City, a tourist draw to rival ground zero, and a teachable moment for parents. Its slogan, “We are the 99 percent” is a staple of the popular discourse.
More broadly, the protest’s leaderless and nonhierarchical structure raises the question of how effective it can be. The demonstrators have yet to proffer clear demands and have rejected any involvement in electoral politics. And it remains to be seen what will become of the action should they lose their foothold at Zuccotti Park.
The Times finally provided a little bit of the news the New York Post has been breaking every day, like the fact that “some people seem to be there mainly for the donated clothes and free food,” as well as arrests for sexual assault and violence. Still, the Times excused the bad behavior as "a small minority."
Many protesters say the lawless visitors constitute a tiny fringe and are not representative of the movement, which, they say, has espoused nonviolence and mutual aid. Some have suggested moving the kitchen area and the comfort station out of the park to discourage freeloaders from congregating there.
But there are concerns that even if the criminal and antisocial elements are a small minority, they are becoming visible enough to tarnish the image of the entire group.
Zernike wasn’t nearly as understanding with another leaderless movement, the Tea Party, writing in “Boiling Mad” that the movement bore the blame for any bad behavior (if there was any) by rallygoers, in this case the unsubstantiated claim that Obama-care protesters shouted racial slurs at black congressman John Lewis.
It was difficult, if not disingenuous, for the Tea Party groups to try to disown the behavior. They had organized the rally, and under their model of self-policing, they were responsible for the behavior of people who were there. And after saying for months that anybody could be a Tea Party leader, they could not suddenly dismiss as faux Tea Partiers those protesters who made them look bad.