The dedicated participants’ stronghold is on the park’s east side, facing Broadway. The stragglers tend to cluster on the park’s west side, facing Cedar. The rift between them is growing. And two of OWS’s core values, generosity and inclusion, are being put to a crucial test.

Every protest scene or dissent park draws from a dark carnival element, and Zuccotti has had members of this group since the first week of its occupation. But the swelling ranks of freeloaders and disturbed characters in the last few days has pressed the working group members who’ve organized the protest and so far kept it from going off the rails to refine their ideas about just how open their movement should be…

It’s a fast drift from political theater and experiment into tarp and tent city, where sleepers block the walkways and the organization breaks down. The west-side anarchists are in 70s-punk costumes, and to the extent that they have discernible politics, many of them would be more fairly described as nihilists. At the Liberty-facing steps, where the much-discussed drummers are based, there’s a post-apocalyptic feel at night, with the spiritual meditation circle sharing space with a shady mélange of crusty punks, angry drunks, drug dealers and the city’s many varieties of park denizens…

But while officers may be in a no-win situation, at the mercy of orders carried on shifting political winds and locked into conflict with a so-far almost entirely non-violent protest movement eager to frame the force as a symbol of the oppressive system they’re fighting, the NYPD seems to have crossed a line in recent days, as the park has taken on a darker tone with unsteady and unstable types suddenly seeming to emerge from the woodwork. 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.