Occupy Wall Street: Where Protesting Social Inequity Met Social Inequity
Police crackdowns are closing Occupy Wall Street encampments from the lower Manhattan square, where they began in September, to Oakland, where a protestor was slain earlier this month. Among the effects this will have is sending an undetermined number of homeless individuals with (and without) untreated mental illness back to the doorways and steam grates where they normally live.
The law of unintended consequences being what it is, protesting social inequity at Occupy encampments brought demonstrators face to face with social inequity - and the meeting was not entirely comfortable. As the number of homeless men and women gravitating to the camps for warmth, food and comaraderie grew more noticeable, anxiety and fear among other campers apparently spread.
“The rising number of homeless, many of them suffering from mental disorders, has made it easier for Occupy’s opponents to belittle the movement as vagrant and lawless and has raised the pressure on municipal authorities to crack down,” the New York Times reported two weeks ago (“Dissenting or seeking shelter, homeless stake a claim at protests," Oct. 31). “(T)heir presence is posing a mounting quandary for protesters and the authorities, and divisions have arisen among protesters across the country about how much, if at all, to embrace the interlopers.”
After that report, the quandary only got worse.
On Nov. 4, the New York Post in its incorrigibly reprehensible style headlined a story, “Deranged homeless man goes on violent rampage in Zucotti park.” Protesters described the man as “mentally ill and ‘off his meds.’” Nobody was injured.
On Nov. 11 – Veteran’s Day – multiple news outlets reported that a military veteran with mental health issues at Occupy Wall Street in Burlington, Vermont, shot and killed himself in his tent ("Man is shot at Occupy Camp in Vermont's largest city").
On Nov. 14, a therapist with a Philadelphia program that combs that city’s streets to locate and offer services to people are mentally ill and homeless told a PhillyNow reporter that the Tent City was inadvertently attracting a “small population of mentally ill homeless people who … are too comfortable to leave and really need to be in shelters before the city’s shelter beds are all taken.” Kristyn Simon worried some would die as a result (“Mentally ill homeless people at Occupy Philadelphia too comfortable for shelters, treatment").
Meanwhile, “in places like Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., protesters talk about feeling unsafe because of the presence of homeless people,” the New York Times reported, in large part because many of them “have mental problems and need help.”
Yes, they do.
Occupy Wall Street calls itself "the 99%." Coincidentally, the number is just about exactly the portion of the population that doesn't have schizophrenia. It's a little less than the percentage that doesn't suffer an untreated severe mental illness. It's also just about exactly the percentage of those with severe mental illness who don't commit acts of violence. As more encampments disperse, the 99% will go back to their homes, and the homeless will fade back to the streets. Let's hope that, as they all do, some of the 99% will join those of us demanding that the 1% get the help they need to escape the social inequity created by being ill and untreated.
To comment, visit our Facebook page.
Visit our blog archive to read all our recent posts.
- About Us
- Legal Resources
- Get Help