Now that Democratic mayors have turned on the Occupy Wall Street crowd, several media outlets have adopted a more critical tone, highlighting crime and squalor at such protests. A front-page Washington Post story on Wednesday wondered, "Is this an occupation or an infestation?"
(Although the paper didn't get to the public defecation and rapes until A4.) On Tuesday's World News, reporter Dan Harris interrogated protesters, pointing out that Occupy Oakland has cost the cash-strapped city $2.4 million. He grilled the crowd, wondering, "These protests cost taxpayers a lot of money for police, sanitation. How is that good for the 99 percent?"
Anchor Diane Sawyer, however, introduced the segment with an almost wistful tone. She reminisced, "For more than eight weeks, ground zero for protesters expressing outrage over income inequality and corporate greed."
On CBS's Evening News, correspondent Michelle Miller explained, "220 people were arrested in the sweep, including dozens who chained themselves together. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the camp had become a health and safety hazard. There have been reports of businesses being threatened and complaints about noise and unsanitary conditions."
Nightly News recapped the efforts to get the protesters out. Mara Schiavocampo noted, "City officials say while they support the right to protest, it's time for the occupation to end."
Anchor Brian Williams teased the segment: "A surprise raid where it all began. They don't occupy Wall Street anymore, after the NYPD threw them out with force." (Aren't most raids "surprises"?)
Yet, back on October 13, 2011, before the Democratic mayors of major cities turned on the protesters, Williams seemed thrilled. Noting a possible showdown between the occupiers and the city, he trumpted:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Back on September 17th, very few people had heard of the protest movement called Occupy Wall Street, but they did and they sure have since then. And so far there have been over a thousand arrests across the United States as the movement spreads. They share a heritage with other big protest movements in American history--some of them have changed history--even though this protest doesn't look the same or take the same shape exactly any two days in a row."
A little over a month later, the Washington Post highlighted Democratic mayoral anger:
The protest movement has “hurt the quality of life in every part of the city,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.
“In the past few days, the balance has tipped,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
“We’re at a critical point where we must reevaluate,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
A transcript of the November 15 World News segment, which aired at 6:36pm EST, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And now the showdown at the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement, what is known as Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. For more than eight weeks, ground zero for protesters expressing outrage over income inequality and corporate greed. But today, the park was transformed from the chaos to calm. The empty square, after the police raid. The protesters evicted. ABC's Dan Harris was there.
DAN HARRIS: They swooped in in the dead of night. Several hundred riot police, clearing the park. The protesters who refused to leave, some of them chaining themselves to one another or to trees were forcibly removed. Roughly 200 of them arrested. The mayor said the elaborate encampment here had simply become too great a fire and health has hazzard. He said the protesters would eventually be allowed back, but only without their tents and tarps.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: The First Amendment protects speech. It does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.
HARRIS: The mayor also sent in squads of sanitation worker who ripped up the tents and carted away sleeping bags and the makeshift kitchen and medical area. But the protesters were not giving up. My mid-morning, they marched back and tried to retake the park. [In the middle of the protest.] The situation is right on the edge right now. Right on the edge. [Back to pre-packaged segment.] New York is just the latest city to crack down on Occupy Wall Street. Portland cleared out its protesters Sunday. Oakland, the following day. These occupations have not been cheap. Costing Oakland, for example, $2.4 million in police overtime and sanitation costs. This in a cash-strapped city that's been forced to lay off workers recently. [Talking to a protester with a "Occupy Wall Street: Do It for Your Kids" sign.] These protests cost taxpayers a lot of money for police, sanitation. How is that good for the 99 percent?
PROTESTER #1 (Man) Well, let's put it this way, you don't- do you really need all these police?
PROTESTER #2: (Woman): I think that the cops should move out and leave us alone!
PROTESTER #3: (Woman): We're all taxpayers. We've paid our taxes and we are advocating for everyone.
HARRIS: Late today, the protesters were told they would be allowed into the park, but they lost a court battle to retain the right to use tents and tarps. If you're not allowed to have tents and tarps, is it an occupation anymore?
PROTESTER #4 (Man): I don't see any reason we couldn't work in shifts. I don't see any reason we have to sleep.
PROTESTER #5 (Man): I think the movement's too big to kill it with this.
HARRIS: Diane, tonight, the protesters are really starting to fill up Zuccotti Park behind me. Police letting them in gradually, checking their bags as they go. There is a festive atmosphere. People say they are happy to be back in what they call their home. But they know things are now different. As of tonight, they can no longer even sleep in Zuccotti Park, which makes calling this an occupation a little bit difficult. Back to you.