Gather hundreds of protesters in a public park with free food, little to no security and a general disregard for the rule of law, and you’re bound to attract a few unsavory characters.
Around 6:00 a.m. Sunday, one such person entered a woman’s tent at Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park shantytown and sexually assaulted her, the latest in a string of rapes and sexual assaults at anti-corporate protests across the country.
Equally troubling is “Occupy” organizers’ reluctance to cooperate with police or encourage victims to seek help.
In Sunday’s case, they chased the pervert away but never called the authorities.
“We don’t tell anyone,” an organizer told the New York Post. “We handle it internally. I said too much already.”
In Baltimore, a security statement from protesters warned that sexual assault would not be tolerated, but discouraged involving police to apprehend lawbreaking sex criminals. Rape victims were encouraged to contact the point people from the “Security Committee,” nicknamed Koala! and Largesse.
“Though we do not encourage the involvement of the police in our community, the survivor has every right, and the support of Occupy Baltimore, to report the abuse to the appropriate law enforcement,” the statement added.
Occupy Baltimore revised its sexual assault statement after criticism from the Baltimore Sun, among other publications.
At the larger Occupy Wall Street protest, a “Safer Spaces” working group advises activists who have been assaulted, offended or hugged, and members walk the nylon-lined alleyways of the tent city in pink armbands to identify themselves. Their interventions failed in an incident earlier this month: An alleged groper was brought to the edge of the park and handed over to police.
Other assaults have been alleged at Occupy Cleveland, and authorities in Seattle and Oakland have reported instances of indecent exposure and threats. At Occupy Dallas, police are investigating the possible rape of a 14-year-old runaway.
Demonstrators’ insistence on self-determination stems from their desire to build a self-governing, self-contained community apart from ordinary instruments of civic justice. But a failure to prevent sexual assaults casts doubt on their experiment in autonomy. “A failure in self-government,” The Nation declared the effort, in a profile of women in the Occupy movement.