|The Occupy Wall Street People's Library prior to|
the November 15th midnight raid.
All of this happened under the cloak of darkness, both literal and figurative. Press were barred from covering the police action. Public transportation to the site was halted as subway service to the nearby stations was suspended. People in neighboring buildings were also barred from leaving their lobbies as the raid unfolded. One cannot help but assume that the Mayor did not want any lingering images of this stealth attack, whether those images were captured by the press or by concerned citizens.
The morning after Mayor Bloomberg evicted the protesters, he held a press conference to defend his administration's actions. He concluded those remarks by saying that the protesters had already had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. "Now," he said, "they will have to occupy the park with the power of their arguments."
Mayor Bloomberg's position seems to suggest that ideas and arguments can somehow be crafted without the minds and bodies that generate them. Somehow, in the world that the mayor occupies, ideas spring fully-formed from the foreheads of men who never want for any corporeal need. Their bodies, so well-fed, and exercised, and groomed, and scented, so well-rested, and warm, and safe, fall into the background, allowing them the fantasy that their minds are somehow independent of their bodies and the vast labor that supports and sustains them. Nestled in the comfortable cocoon that is economic privilege, their bodies become the sites of various pleasures and perhaps the occasional discomforts of the diseases that medical science has yet to ameliorate. But seldom are their bodies the sites of desperation, hunger, pain, and need. Were it not for the utter insensibility that such privilege fosters, the mayor's remarks might seem not just disingenuous, but utterly cynical.
Hannah Arendt's analysis of these ideas.) The frustration, anger, and rage that emerge from economic inequality, and that animate mass movements, are deemed irrational. Protesters are characterized as crazy or criminal. Their status as citizens is impugned. They are cast as a mob, as unruly and unreasonable. Often they are described as malodorous, ill-kempt, and unclean.
That is one reason that the Occupy Wall Street People's Library was such a threat. The library, along with the non-violent civil disobedience of the movement, suggests that the occupation is guided by ideas and ideals. The image of a movement that had assembled a 4,500+ volume library in just two months was starkly at odds with the media fantasies of irrational, marauding hooligans or filthy, unkempt hippies. A 4,500+ volume library that was organized, cataloged and circulating, suggests that reason, reflection, and dialog are at the heart of the occupation. A collection that included volumes inscribed by renowned authors supporting the movement suggests an alarming level of cultural resonance. Beyond that, such a distinguished and significant collection might some day be archived for historians to consider as the story of the occupation is written. But instead of continuing to circulate amongst library users, instead of being preserved for the archives of the future, much of the occupation library was crushed in the trash compactors of twenty-eight Department of Sanitation trucks that carted away the property of the occupying protesters.
|OWS librarian Stephen Boyer displays a damaged copy of |
Philip Levine's What Work Is that the poet had inscribed for the library.
The mayor and his administration may have been aware that the destruction of a library represented a potential PR problem. Perhaps that's why they released a photograph via Twitter the day of the raid, suggesting that the library had been well-cared for by its temporary custodians at the Department of Sanitation.
Images from yesterday's press conference suggest otherwise.
On this Thanksgiving Day, at tables across the country — and in newspapers, and blogs, and twitterfeeds — I'm grateful that the conversations (and occupations) will surely continue unabated.