Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally made the decision to evict the OWS protesters from Zuccotti Park last night. His decision, he claims, had to do with public health and safety.
Some time after 6 a.m., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a written statement that while he supports the First Amendment rights of the protesters, his greater priority is protecting the public’s health and safety, and he took full responsibility for the “final decision to act.”
“Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest but, rather, to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,” Bloomberg said, noting that for some residents of the area, noise and unsanitary conditions of the Occupy camp had created “an intolerable situation.”
He added: “The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out — but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others — nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here — the First Amendment protects speech — it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.”
Well there is ambiguity (there’s also a right to peaceful assembly although it is arguable the assembly has been peaceful), but note the thing he doesn’t site – property rights. Or at least not directly. He sorta, kinda alludes to it when he talks about the “exclusion of others”. That’s a privately owned park which has been literally taken over by the OWS group and its owners have been denied the ability to make decisions about its use. Why not just say the occupiers (because that’s what they call themselves – perhaps squatters is a better description) have been declared trespassers and removed? To easy?
One of the pernicious problems I see all the time when it comes to government officials is their selective enforcement of property rights. It seems to me that once the exclusionary tactics were applied where those who owned the park were excluded from using it as they wish, they had every right in the world to demand the eviction of the protesters.
I obviously don’t know what the company that holds those rights had to say because it seems they weren’t really even given a voice in that sort of decision. On the other hand, had they decided that it was good use of their property and gone along with the OWS protesters, shouldn’t their decision about their property had some weight?
I guess what I’m getting at is that other than a mention here and there, no one knows much about the owners or their druthers.
I’m actually sympathetic with the city’s reasons for clearing the park. I think Bloomberg is exactly right. But my larger point is where are the property owners in all of this. Why aren’t they an integral part of this process?
Property rights have been under assault in this country for some time. The abominable Kelo decision was the cherry on top of the sundae that has all but destroyed those rights. More and more I see government deciding how private property will be used and only enforcing laws on trespassing and the like when it serves their purpose (in this case I imagine that the pressure from those who lived nearby finally got to the point that Bloomberg was forced to act).
The right to private property (and its exclusive use) is a foundational right from which many other rights spring. Like so much in this country, government has moved in on that right and while giving it lip service has intruded to such an extent in its execution that it is arguable if the right can be exercised properly anymore. When that right is subsumed, all of our rights are in jeopardy.
We’ll see how much they’re in jeopardy with the upcoming ObamaCare decision. It will either give us a new lease on our rights or, it may end up being the final nail in their coffin.