Friday, January 13, 2012

Homelessness keeps its Occupy visibility?

We haven't heard much from the Occupy movement lately so it's nice to be reminded that the 2011 protest season did shift some attitudes.

To wit: David Sirota, who I think is a fair specimen of the soft-center-left, has a syndicated column today that includes a mainly predictable laundry list of inequities. In the middle of it is a phrase we wouldn't have seen a year ago: "...Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters..."

Wow.

It used to be, your basic conventional writers on the left complained mightily about police abuse of protesters, but police abuse of homeless people was reserved for holiday-season columns about Those Less Fortunate, or for writeups of Meanest Cities ratings like this one from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

You got the general impression that abuse of protesters was straight-up brutality, but abuse of homeless people was a milder kind of wrong. Regrettable, of course, but regrettable under a mushy heading like "lack of charity." Something prosperous people could pat themselves on the back for noticing, but not worth real political energy.

Now folks who can get heard are recognizing a thing. That when powerful people in cities use the literal arms of the law to clear public space of visibly irregular people who might be bad for business, the political and economic significance of such clearances does not depend primarily on whether the people being cleared have political intentions or not.

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