I would write about corporate law if it were as interesting as what is happening under my window in Dewey Square.
Yesterday the Occupy people were to move a winterized tent into the compound. The Boston police announced they would resist this effort as no “construction material” will be allowed on site. At noon there was a crowd 25 floors below me, and a couple of police cars (normally well out of view) but no sirens or signs of a scuffle. While you could not tell much from up here, the news reports this morning said that the police politely turned away a fireproof tent that was procured in response to the city’s stated fear that the encampment was a fire hazard.
All this plays out against the backdrop of an already argued legal case, taken under advisement by a judge, wherein the Occupy people sought to enjoin their removal by the city. The city has assured Occupy that while the city lacks present intent to clean our the compound (as has been done in many other places), they must reserve the right to react to prevent breach of public order or lack of sanitation or creation of public nuisance. Boston’s blue collar mayor has been surprisingly supportive of free speech rights in this case, perhaps reflecting the demographics of his electorate (Monday’s Globe reported that poorer people and Obama supporters identify with the Occupy folks, not a surprising conclusion).
But is it in fact true that there is danger in those tents? Or are they just the flimsly housing of the disadvantaged who are speaking their minds under Constitutional protection?
According to the head of one social service agency (with whom I spoke yesterday) whose mission is to protect runaway teens and young people, there is in fact danger lurking in the tents. He describes a community run by student anarchists, and occupied by runaways and street people; the philosophical founders of the Boston Occupy are “back at Harvard and Tufts writing their term papers.” He describes a community in which drugs of all sorts are freely available, where security is provided by the homeless, where runaway kids show up for the glamor and have 48 hours to be extracted or else get sucked into the sexual underground.
Every view of everything is determined by where you stand. It is not surprising, although it is also true, that many business people I speak with find Occupy to be without focus or program; I think that that does not matter, Occupy is (or should be) witness to a problem, they are not likely to have the answers no one else seems to have. It is equally not surprising that social service professionals have such a frightening view of Occupy Boston — but to what extent is that view accurate, and to what extent is it just the projection of implicit judgment bent by the prism of where one is standing?
I don’t know, but I don’t like people who are not bankers or lawyers criticising Occupy. It erodes the warm feeling I have held that democracy is being acted out from the grass roots upwards. The idea that people in the tents are speaking truth to power is not strengthened by the picture of runaway teens getting sucked up into bad stuff. I don’t like my idealized rush to embrace protest, where there is clearly so much to protest and so few ways to effect change, being sidetracked by tawdry revelations, particularly when they seem like they may be accurate. It would be a shame if Occupy were to fall of its own weight and its failure to live up to my self-constructed image of what it might have been.