Of all the arguments Occupy Wall Street critics' deploy, the most entertaining is the issue of public health and sanitation at the protests' headquarters. As they tell it, the protests are a steaming pile of human excrement, used condoms and sinfully bare breasts.
The Daily Mail has an evocative article about the medieval sludge supposedly bubbling up from the ground in lower Manhattan, where Occupy Wall Street protesters have been camping out for more than three weeks. "We found piles of stinking refuse clogging Zuccotti Park," they report.
They offer vivid proof of protesters' incivility, with this delightful picture of a man pooping on a police car. The photographer, Stefan Jeremiah, has spent the last few hours defending his image to people who say it's a set-up to smear—ahem—protesters.
"I got warrants. I'm running from the law," boasted Dave, 24, a scrawny, unshaven miscreant in filthy clothes from Stamford, Conn. "I'm not even supposed to be here, but it's as good a spot as any to hide."
The Post cites the fact their reporter was offered heroin down at the park as further evidence. Really? This seems to be more a problem with the Post hiring the kind of person who would be offered heroin in public. Glenn Beck's vanity internet pamphlet, The Blaze frets that "numerous reports have claimed that the smell of marijuana has been more than present among the protesters." (The Blaze is apparently written by that kid who always reminded your high school math teacher that she forgot to assign homework.) Come on. The smell of marijuana is everywhere on New York sidewalks—it's probably pumped in by the city to sedate the populace.
In these articles there are pictures of bare-breasted women, and reports that protesters are having sex under tarps in the park. (If only the protester who posted this Craigslist missed connection could be so lucky.)
So, yeah, people are gross sometimes, and local businesses are justifiably pissed—AHEM—that protesters are clogging their toilets without buying anything. But when I was there last week, the park was cleaner than the majority of New York's public spaces, with about 1/2 fewer obvious drug users. Volunteers constantly sweep and remove trash, and they're reportedly boosting the number of sanitation workers to a full-time staff of 50. New York Times reporter Brian Stelter was down there yesterday and tweeted "It is remarkably clean here."
If anything, the protesters highlight the woeful inadequacy of New York City's public restrooms. (There are effectively none.) Still, there is that guy who crapped on the police car. Regardless of your stance on corporate personhood that is absolutely foul.
[Image via AP]