Dirty Hands and Occupy Wall Street

November 20, 2011

Dirty Hands, Political action


Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street

It has been 2 months since Occupy Wall Street started, the movement is protesting social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed and corruption. The movement has struck a chord with people and has become a worldwide movement. While I was reading news a couple of days ago I noticed a story about Occupy Wall Street, the article was about the protesters being evicted from Zuccotti Park on November 15th. The protesters were being forced out of the park to allow the park to be cleaned, the protestors were forcibly removed by police in riot gear, some were detained for resisting but most left with minimal problems. The article can be found here, but to sum it up, the New York supreme court ruled that the protesters were allowed to return but they could not bring their tents and generators. The court said that “protesters’ First Amendment rights do not include remaining there “along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations to the exclusion of the owner’s reasonable rights and duties to maintain” the area.”

This ruling piqued my curiosity, could this be an example of the dirty hands problem that we talked about in class a couple of weeks ago when we read the excerpt from Machiavelli’s The Prince. At this point in the semester we all understand what the dirty hands problem is and whether or not something can be classified as such, but I found this ruling difficult for me to pin down. On one hand this ruling could be a case of dirty hands on the part of the court because they are violating the protester’s rights to assemble and free speech by removing them and limiting their return to protest. The court is violating the protester’s rights in order to avoid disaster on part of the community, by cleaning the park and making sure everyone in the community is safe. On the other hand the court isn’t really violating the rights of the protester’s because they aren’t really stopping them from protesting or assembling, and the reason they are doing it is to keep the park clean and to keep the community safe.

The whole situation boils down to the question of whether or not it is okay for the court and Bloomberg to restrict some freedoms of the protester’s for the good of the community? Do the ends justify the means, can we ignore what the court is ruling because the end result is for the good of the community or should we be up in arms about the restricting of the most basic right we have as citizens of the United States? I personally think that this is not a case of dirty hands because the reason the court ruled the way it did was because they hand no other choice and in all honesty their right to assemble wasn’t really affected too much, the safety of the community comes before this protest in my opinion. I believe that the ends in this case do in fact justify the means. The Occupy Wall Street movement seems to be getting out of hand, I believe in what these men and women are doing, but I feel like they could go about it in a smarter way, one that won’t harm the public as well. What do you all think?

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3 Comments on “Dirty Hands and Occupy Wall Street”

  1. Danielle Studenberg Says:

    I agree that there is definitely a problem going on in New York regarding Occupy Wallstreet. The protests have been going on for over two months, yet have not accomplished much yet. They have cost the state a lot of money in order to clean Zuccotti Park, which you mentioned already, but the protesters also have caused extra policemen to be on duty as well. This has cost the state even more money to pay them overtime.

    Overall I do not believe this to be a case of dirty hands. The state of New York is doing what it has to in order to keep the city clean and habitable. In addition, they let the protesters occupy Zuccotti Park again after they had left, thus letting them display their “freedom of assembly.” The only way I think this situation would be dirty hands is if violence occurred when the protesters were taken from the park. Otherwise, the protest was peaceful and nothing too corrupt occurred. The ends did justify the means, and the protesters resumed Occupying Wallstreet when they were able to.

  2. ldahbour Says:

    If I had to label I would say that this is a case of dirty hands because the local government is New York is acting in an unpopular fashion to effectively maintain the city. They are disrupting the right to protest so they can clear the premises and clean Zuccotti Park. Although Bloomberg will be seen as oppressing their freedom of expression, he is doing it to ultimately maintain his ‘state’ and ensure a safe and hazard-free environment. If we were to consider Mill in this context, I would add that Mill would agree that this is oppression of the protestors’ freedom of expression, but the reasoning behind it is acceptable. By allowing the protestors to remain in Zuccotti Park, the park will not be cleaned therefore allowing potential harm to reach the citizens of New York with an unsanitary public location.

  3. Kunal Saxena Says:

    First, let me start off by saying that I found your post really interesting and applicable to political science. In the case that you mentioned, I feel that Occupying wall street is an example of Dirty Hands. This is because taking away constitutional rights that citizens of the US have is justified by the community safety. Similarly, to add to that, I would like to bring up one of Mill’s quote from the Speech “On Liberty”. He mentions “that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any members of civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Here we can see that the government taking away the “rights” of the protesters was because of a potential “harm” to others. I feel that the judge is justified in doing so and Mill, in my opinion, would definitely agree with me.