Down in Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street protests have been taking place for four week, things tended to get quiet at night.
The "occupiers" had declared that the hours of 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. were "quiet hours." This made sense. People are actually living in the park, trying to sleep at night. A few hours of quiet are a good idea.
Sleeping in the park is quite difficult to do, actually. Tents aren't allowed, so you are always sleeping exposed to the elements. It's unsettling to be undomiciled. It feels unnatural. Probably because it is. Humans have sought shelter from at least the time we climbed down from trees.
Last night things got even more difficult. A construction team showed up just after dark. They put up bright lights, brought in a large earth mover, and fired up an extremely loud jack-hammer. The sound echoes off the nearby buildings, filling the square. It felt as if the whole place was vibrating to the jack-hammer.
The construction workers told me that they had a permit to work in the area for several weeks, all through the night. There was a steam pipe problem, they said.
Back in the park, several people wondered if this was an intentional attempt to drive the protesters away from the site.
"It's like when they played rock music at the Branch Davidians. Induce sleep deprivation, confusion, agitation," one person said, referring to the deadly conflict the U.S. government had with a Waco, Texas-based religious group in the early 1990s.
You don't have to believe in a conspiracy theory to think that allowing the construction to move forward might be a very bad idea.
Unless the steam pipe poses some sort of immediate threat to people's well-being, construction could be delayed. Making the protesters even more sleep-deprived is only likely to lead to less-clear minded decision making, and perhaps more conflicts with authorities. If this is avoidable simply by revoking the construction permit, that should be done.
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