Monday, November 28, 2011

End ‘Occupy’

It’s time to pack up the tents and go home: “Occupy Auckland” has gone on long enough, with no hint that the protesters will ever leave. That may change soon, with or without their consent.

Today Auckland Council issued the “occupy” encampment with a trespass notice and they have gone to the Auckland District Court asking for a court order prohibiting further breaches of council bylaws, which includes their occupation of public space to the exclusion of all others, damage to council property and camping in a public space not set aside for that purpose, among other things.

The trespass notice is the first step toward forcibly removing the protestors. The New Zealand Police had earlier indicated a reluctance to remove the protestors, even with a trespass notice, due to the free speech and freedom of assembly issues raised. But if the Court issues an order, it will have to be enforced.

The known costs to council so far are around $180,000, not counting electricity or water used by occupiers, extra refuse collection, etc. In a worst case scenario—with damage to the waterproof membrane protecting the roof of the carpark underneath Aotea Square and the irrigation system under the encampment site, we’d be looking at a bill several times larger—all paid by the ratepayers of Auckland who can’t even use the space because of the illegal occupation. No wonder they’re pretty much fed up with this whole thing.

The “occupiers” knew this was coming. Just under two weeks ago, Auckland Council asked occupiers for the date of their departure. They didn’t provide that date, but scrawled defiant responses instead. The "occupiers" also claimed there’d be no eviction before the elections this past Saturday because they believed it would become a national issue.

At the end of last week, Council again asked them for the date of their departure before issuing the trespass notice today. Naturally, the “occupiers” aren’t pleased. One of them said he believes this action by Auckland Council as “wholly inappropriate”. Really? Inappropriate like their occupation and use of a public space in violation of several bylaws, and then expecting ratepayers to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars for repairs? That kind of “wholly inappropriate”? Another called it “provocative”—does that mean “provocative” as in implying a never-ending occupation?

Now the “occupy” folks have issued “an emergency call to mobilise”, saying: “We have mandated at tonights [sic] emergency GA [“general assembly”] to Silently protest inside the hearing as well as out side [sic]”. Now, who was being provocative again?

I’ve read minutes of their “general assembly” gatherings and it’s become increasingly clear to me just how deluded they are. They really think they speak for “the 99%,” little realising that they themselves are another “the 1%”, but the one made up of the protesters and their supporters, not the one they’re supposedly protesting against.

I’ve also become convinced that they want a violent confrontation. Their occupation has no point and can’t accomplish anything, so the only thing that could give the whole thing any meaning is if they’re beaten. Trouble is, New Zealand Police aren’t stupid and won’t rise to the bait. And, in any case, the New Zealand news media has shown almost no interest in the whole thing. The “occupiers” call it a “media blackout,” but most New Zealanders would call it ignoring something that simply isn’t news—or even interesting.

If the “occupiers” had left a couple weeks after they arrived, they would have taken a lot of sympathy with them, and people would’ve been supportive of their message. As it is, the vast majority of Aucklanders can’t wait to see the back of them, and that includes me. Whatever natural sympathy I had for them is long gone.

It’s time for them to pack up their tents and go home.

Update 29/11/11: Auckland Council's request for an interim injunction requiring the protesters to leave Aotea Square was denied tonight on the grounds that the protesters supposedly didn't have enough time to prepare a defence. The hearing on the permanent injunction will be heard next week. It's true that justice must not just be done, it must also be seen to be done, so in that sense alone, it seems reasonable to side with the judge. But to be honest, the antics of the protesters in court showed disrespect for the entire legal process, so we'll see if they're better next week.


Nik said...

The problem for the occupies -- in New Zealand at least -- is even people who might be sympathetic to their views are turned off by what is coming off as a bunch of folk sitting around in tents waiting for the entire world to change its ways.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Well put—I think you're absolutely right. Their problem is that they haven't made any concrete proposals or demands ordinary people can support, so there's no way their "mission" can ever be fulfilled.

I think it's also clear that they WAY overestimate their support among ordinary New Zealanders: If New Zealanders were really in support of them, there would have been a landslide victory for the left last Saturday, but instead the right was strengthened.

I read the minutes of one of the "general assembly" gatherings about the time Auckland Council asked them for their departure date, when we were seeing brutal repression in the US and elsewhere. The minutes show at least one person thought such a violent crackdown was imminent in Auckland (a good example of them being divorced from reality), and it was said that they should organise a "massive" mobilisation of folks in support of the occupiers and, presumably, to prevent forcible eviction. I gather they really thought they had "massive" support.

I also think this whole thing is instructive of why far left politics never advance: If they can't even articulate a concrete goal that ordinary people can support, what on earth makes them think the country will embrace them for, as you put it, sitting around in tents waiting for the entire world to change its ways?