Clearing out the squatters in City Hall Park who were the remnants of the movement based for a month restored a sense that the city was under control, veteran political consultant George Arzt told us July 23.
The crisp efficiency with which the dismantling of the Occupy City Hall encampment was accomplished with just a show of force by the NYPD to send the 50 inhabitants of the space on their way also was a needed victory for Police Commissioner Dermot Shea after he was unable to convince Mayor de Blasio, as well as the City Council, that a new law under which cops can be criminally charged if they compress a suspect's torso during a struggle was bad for law enforcement, Mr. Arzt said.
There has been speculation that the Mayor gave the go-ahead for the takeover, after prattling for weeks about the rights of demonstrators even after part of the group harassed Council Members who weren't sufficiently responsive to its demand to "defund the police" and became a public eyesore, out of concern about President Trump sending in Federal troops.
But Mr. Arzt, a former Press Secretary to Mayor Ed Koch, said there was enough pressure on Mr. de Blasio to take action even if he wasn't daunted by the prospect of outside law-enforcement coming to the city.
"I think it was a case of New York looking lawless" that lingered beyond two days of looting in the midst of the large protests in early June, he said. "Between the [wave of] shootings, the encampment, and the guy setting up the home in Washington Square Park, it seemed like the city was out of control. I believe they thought they had to act."
Another flashpoint, he said, was the bailing-out of the woman who, as comrades in the Abolish the NYPD protests sought to prevent a pro-police rally by Brooklyn ministers and civic activists from crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, bashed a couple of NYPD supervisors' heads with a cane.
The video of her vicious attack, and footage of her welcomed return to the encampment after being bailed out, "emboldened an anti-police atmosphere," Mr. Arzt said.
Asked why, then, city officials waited nearly a week to roust the mix of die-hards and homeless people, he said, "I think they wanted time to plan this out."
The possibility of Mr. Trump sending in troops, as he had done in Portland, may have influenced the Mayor's decision. Mr. Arzt said Governor Cuomo, who reportedly convinced the President not to march on New York before it moved to resolve its problems, may also have persuaded the Mayor to stop indulging the protesters.
But, he said, the primary impetus was that "the Mayor didn't look like he was in control of the city [and] the NYPD didn't look like it was doing anything about the shootings," one of which caused the murder of an 18-month-old boy struck by a stray bullet at a family barbecue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Mr. Arzt believes that the diaphragm-compression portion of the bill criminalizing chokeholds by police that the Mayor signed into law July 15 was a mistake. But he said that the Police Commissioner showed his political inexperience by not doing a better job making the case against the measure to the media and the public.
"He should have been telling the Mayor and [City Council Speaker] Corey Johnson, 'Look, we don't have a problem with the [criminalizing of] chokeholds but you can't [prohibit] cops from getting a guy down on the ground. He could've talked about [those] parts of the bill that make it difficult for cops to do their job," Mr Arzt said.
He added, "The Mayor was against the legislation at first—until he saw the Council was ready to pass it. I think that Shea is new to the political game and doesn't understand the different audiences he has to address now. When you get to the top job, there is a pr function to it."
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