Atlanta mayor to "Occupy" protesters: You're on a "clear path to escalation" so we're going to have to clear the park

He’s backed down twice before but the antagonism between him and the protesters seems to be peaking. At this point I suspect the movement would welcome a police crackdown somewhere to boost sympathy for the protesters. People are getting bored with the story and there are enough freak-show videos from the protests circulating to put off the middle-class supporters that they need. But heavy-handed action by a city could turn it around depending upon how favorable the resulting narrative is to OWS. Ideally for them, the crackdown would be ordered by a mayor who resembles the cartoon plutocracy they’re railing against; Bloomberg, an aging billionaire with endless friends on Wall Street (and a “Zionist” to boot!), is an almost perfect match. If only he were more conservative, he’d be straight out of central casting. Problem is, so far he’s been accommodating — so much so that he’s evidently willing to tolerate a huge police presence downtown at Zuccotti Park even as the number of shootings elsewhere in the city has spiked, a phenomenon some “high-ranking” cops blame on being stretched thin by OWS.

Instead, the man who may send in the police is … 42-year-old Democrat Kasim Reed. Bad narrative:

At a tense press conference that started at about 4:45, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said some people associated with Occupy Atlanta are on “a clear path to escalation” after an unauthorized hip-hop concert over the weekend and an incident in which a member of his staff was shouted down during a television interview.

Reed said he will revoke the executive order allowing Occupy Atlanta protesters to stay in Woodruff Park until Nov. 7. He did not say when that would occur, but said it would be at the time of his choosing and the city’s fire and police departments would be ready to clear the downtown park at his command…

At the press conference, Reed said he planned to give a group of clergy — some of whom joined him at the press conference at City Hall — time to meet with the protesters and work out a solution.

If that doesn’t happen, “we are going to clear the park,” he said.

At various points in the press conference, Occupy Atlanta protesters interrupted Reed and accused him of spin and of exaggerating the threat to citizens. Reed did not take the bait.

Bloomberg has the luxury of waiting a few weeks for winter temperatures to thin the herd before the NYPD starts moving people out. Reed doesn’t. I’d be curious to know if this is a simple case of his patience having run out or if, for whatever reason, he’s sensing that the public is getting tired of the occupiers too and will back him in a confrontation. CNN’s out with a new national poll this afternoon showing an almost even split, 32/29, on whether OWS is viewed favorably or unfavorably. Heavy majorities said they view bankers as greedy, overpaid, and dishonest, but on the specific question about the occupiers, support topped out in the low 30s. Note the age breakdown, too:

After just a month, they’re already underwater with the same older voters whom Democrats are targeting with their “Paul Ryan wants to kill grandma” message next year. And the more stories like this bubble up on Drudge and start to make the rounds, the more danger Dems are in. Even if Reed and other Democratic mayors crack down in the expectation that the locals will support them, the effect among the base nationally is likely to be negative: According to CNN, OWS’s favorable rating among Democrats is 45/12 compared to just 33/30 among indies.

I’m tempted to say that, in a YouTube age where the most eccentric members of any protest can be recorded and used to characterize the whole crowd, it’s hard for any movement to improve its poll numbers over time. Not impossible, maybe — if OWS comes up with a mainstream list of demands aimed at populist class warriors, like a surtax on the rich, it’ll generate some new respectability among independents — but the more people are left snickering at the group’s utopian foibles, the harder it’ll be to reorient later and see them as something other than the financial district’s answer to Burning Man. Via Verum Serum, here’s a guy who knows a thing or two about utopian foibles himself confronting out-and-proud socialists at the protests. I wonder if he ever thought he’d still be having this conversation so many years later.

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