As the Occupy Wall Street protesters entrench themselves in Zuccotti Park with tents, tarps (and pedal-powering generators) there is concern that the environment at the park itself is attracting drunks, drug dealers, and garden-variety criminals in increasingly greater numbers. There may be a reason for this: the NYPD is allegedly telling lawbreakers to take their activities to Zuccotti.
Harry Siegel reports in the Daily News on the divide between the East and West sides of the park, with the East populated by the working groups (Sanitation, Press, Legal) and the West filled up with "the carnival crowd" of "crusty punks, angry drunks, drug dealers and the city's many varieties of park denizens." But Siegel points to something far more cynical that mere self-selection for an increase in the number of dubious occupiers:
Two different drunks I spoke with last week told me they’d been encouraged to “take it to Zuccotti” by officers who’d found them drinking in other parks, and members of the community affairs working group related several similar stories they’d heard while talking with intoxicated or aggressive new arrivals.
When one "clearly disturbed man" continued to scream and sing at 3 a.m., Siegel heard an officer say, “He’s got a right to express himself, you’ve got a right to express yourself." A protester then joked that it was "the first time I've heard cops mention our First Amendment rights."
Though Zuccotti's kitchen has cut back on hours and on menu items, and the protesters use mediators with walkie-talkies to patrol the park, it's unclear if those who support the movement itself will be able to peacefully excise those who break the law and pollute the group's message.
If there's one thing the protesters may have in their favor, it's that most members of Community Board 1 seem to know the difference between those who occupy the park respectfully and those who sell drugs and jeopardize the safety of the neighborhood. If it's determined that the NYPD and the Bloomberg administration are responsible for more people defecating on their doorsteps, their focus may shift from how the protesters can peacefully coexist with residents to why those in charge are preventing them from doing so.