From the front lines of the Occupy Wall Street protest on the day New York evicted participants from their encampment in Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, it became clear that the effort which may or may not be a movement is at a defining moment.
In the next two days, we'll have a good idea if Occupy Wall Street, which has lasted for nearly two months, will fizzle or find fuel to keep going by regaining momentum from here.
At the moment, a good bet is that the Occupy Wall Street protest has peaked and is now facing fizzle. Protesters waiting outside of Zuccotti Park late Tuesday afternoon for word from a New York City courtroom as to whether they would be allowed back in or not worked hard to keep spirits and organization high.
But though there was a large crowd at the gathering, including dozens of police officers who stood behind barricades to ensure that protesters were kept out of the park after it was cleaned in the early morning hours following eviction, it had a different flavor than one found there one month ago when the protest showed signs of becoming a full-blown movement.
Social activists comprised about half of the protest crowd, while vagrants and others who seemed unclear with what it is all about comprised the other half.
While one protester led the group in a forum speech, pledging to close down the city on November 17, Occupy Wall Street's two-month anniversary, a young woman covered in bruises who was obviously under the heavy influence of something threw fists into the chest of her boyfriend while mumbling something negative about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It was clear she was upset that protesters had been kicked out of Zuccotti Park since she needed a place to sleep for the approaching night with heavy rain in the forecast.
Some will argue that her predicament, apparently homeless and under the influence, is a result of the very thing that Occupy Wall Street is trying to stand against -- the one percent taking from the 99 percent. But it was clear that the woman, and other stragglers tagging along for pastries and a place to sleep in the city, wasn't exactly tied into the connection. She simply wanted, according to her words, more intoxicant, a place to sleep, and the chance to see Bloomberg blow, whatever that meant.
I watched the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York's Lower Manhattan on its very first day, wondering how big it might get. I'll be the first to admit that it has both surprised and amused along the way, growing in New York and spreading throughout the world to the point that some began to define it as a movement. For a couple of weeks last month, it was apparent something big was happening.
But then, after a cold, snowy weekend at the end of October, infiltration by the homeless and others with different aims and ambitions, and breakups of other encampments around the country in recent days, Occupy Wall Street has appeared to be fizzling out. Then came the early morning eviction from Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, resulting in the late afternoon stand outside the park's barriers that same evening as protesters waited for word from the courthouse as to whether or not they could get back in. It was clear that a defining moment was at hand.
Without the park as a home base, the group seemed less powerful than it did entrenched amid the trees and benches that dot the space. If protesters are allowed back into the park, they could perhaps regain some momentum and focus. But if the protesters are left without a home base in the city, we might have seen the beginning of the end for Occupy Wall Street.
New York hasn't seemed to know what to do with the encamped protesters for almost two months, yet the city has a long and storied history of knowing what to do with the homeless. They keep them moving, to avoid letting them settle and organize in one place.