2:28 pm Oct. 14, 2011
Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez would like to see Occupy Wall Street result in a new millionaire's tax. But despite his experience and skill as a political organizer, he's not sure yet how one goes about harnessing the broadly liberal energy coming out of Zuccotti Park.
"That's the challenge," he told me in a phone call this morning.
Lopez, who visited protesters in lower Manhattan on October 5, well before most elected officials decided it was entirely safe to do so, pointed to his early attendance as evidence that he's more progressive than his liberal-reformist critics give him credit for.
"I was the first politician at the Wall Street rally," he said.
(The very-first-to-associate honor appears to belong to City Councilman Jumaane Williams, according to a press release this morning that cited his Sept. 27 visit.)
Lopez said he thinks the protest is "gaining momentum," and he said it was the Bloomberg administration that backed down on a threat yesterday to effectively clear the park of its long-term occupants.
(Technically, and according to City Hall's statements, the decision not to proceed with a police-enforced cleanup this morning was made by Brookfield Office Properties. But Brookfield appears to be coordinating its handling of the situation closely with the city.)
"The mayor pulled back, not the owner pulled back," Lopez said.
Lopez said he was currently helping to organize a Brooklyn rally that would march over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan in support of the movement, and that the protesters had already accomplished something, even if their demands remain unspecific.
"No one's talking about the Tea Party," Lopez said. "They're talking about these protesters."
Lopez said that was a "victory of sorts," though he would like to see them pick three or four specific issues to advocate for. He hoped pressure for the millionaire's tax would be one "outgrowth" of the movement, though he won't go so far as to try to make that happen himself.
"They organized it, and so far they're doing very well," he said.