A Siena College poll released Tuesday showed that 66 percent of New York voters don't believe Occupy Wall Street represents 99 percent of people, but it also showed that 57 percent of New Yorkers believe protesters should be able to camp in public parks. The poll also showed that support for the Occupy movement had waned among New Yorkers in the last month, from 49 percent to 45 percent.
Indeed, a build-up of what protesters have mostly insisted are "isolated incidents" swayed even pro-Occupy mayors like Oakland's Jean Quan. After facing heavy pressure from politicians and police unions, Mayor Quan ordered that Frank Ogawa Plaza again be swept free of tents on Monday, even as two of her staff resigned in protest against police tactics. Police in Portland, Ore., Burlington, Vt., and Denver have also evicted protesters from urban camps in the last few days.
"We came to this point because Occupy Oakland, I think, began to take a different path than the original movement," Quan said. "The encampment became a place where we had repeated violence and last week a murder. We had to bring the camp to an end before more people got hurt."
After zigzagging between support and opposition, Mayor Bloomberg sent in police early Tuesday morning, arresting 200 people, sweeping Zuccotti Park clean, and sending the remaining protesters in search of a new park to occupy.
“No right is absolute and with every right comes responsibilities," Bloomberg said in a statement. "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.”
Part of the changing dynamic of the camps has been that a growing number of homeless people have become part of the protests, and have brought problems with them into the camps. In fact, a new study by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty found that there's been a 7 percent increase in laws against sleeping in public places since 2009, bolstering Occupy's arguments that the rich are fighting a war of attrition against the poor.