The seventh week of Occupy Wall Street has begun, and the protest has picked up some unexpected members recently. Lately, there's been a growing concern that Zuccotti Park has drawn an increasing number of criminals-particularly drug dealers-and free-loaders. The last thing that Occupy Wall Street needs is for the actions of a few individuals who aren't even participating in the protest to overshadow the movement itself. An article written by Harry Siegel of the New York Daily News explains the division in the park, with the lawbreakers taking up residence far away from the action. What's alarming is that their presence may have been influenced by the NYPD.

The Daily News article mentions that the East and West sides of the park have been split over the past week. The East side is composed of active participants and key groups such as the sanitation, press and legal departments. Conversely, the West side has attracted a group of leeches that's been called  "the carnival crowd". There's a fine line between the two groups, and it's even more obvious at night, as the workers have been staying as far away from the non-participants as possible. It's probably to make sure that not of their equipment or other belongings mysteriously vanish, and the kitchen has even cut its hours and menu to avoid enabling the curmudgeons who are there simply  to take advantage of what the movement has to offer. But is it possible that some of them were strategically placed in Zuccotti Park?

It's been alleged that the NYPD is funneling drunks, criminals and homeless moochers into the park. In his article, Siegel revealed that two different drunks told him that police had advised them to "take it to Zuccotti," as pretty much anything goes there. The community affairs faction in Zuccotti supported his claims, saying that other miscreants they had spoken to said the same thing. When protesters asked police to address an obviously mentally disturbed man who sang obnoxiously for the second night in a row, Siegel also reported that he witnessed three different cops tell protesters versions of "He's got a right to express himself, you've got a right to express yourself." Of course the NYPD's press office wouldn't comment on this smug approach, but using Occupy Wall Street's own logic against it isn't unfathomable for New York's finest, or the Bloomberg administration.

While it's possible that the NYPD is trying to bring Occupy Wall Street down from the inside, anyone with half a brain knows the difference between serious protesters and the moochers and small-time criminals. The efforts of the latter cannot undermine those of the former, even if they are getting a push from the authorities. While the divide and conquer tactics may be viewed as strategy, closer examination exposes them as acts of desperation. It's only natural for non-supporters to be drawn to the negativity, but there's a clear difference between a true protester and a human barnacle.

[via Gothamist and The New York Daily News]