Privatization and Protest: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Toronto, and the Occupation of Public Space in a Democracy

Source: Margaret Kohn, Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 11 no. 1, March 2013
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From the abstract:
This article examines the legal and normative debates about the Occupy Toronto movement in order to illuminate the issues raised by Occupy Wall Street. It challenges the view that the occupation of parks and plazas was an illegitimate privatization of public space. In both New York City and Toronto, the courts relied on a theory that Habermas called “German Hobbesianism.” This sovereigntist theory of the public was used to justify removing the protesters and disbanding the encampments. The alternative is what I call the populist model of the public, a term which describes the political mobilization of the people outside the institutional structures of the state. While my focus is on public space, I suggest the appropriation of space was the most visible aspect of a broader call for collective control of the common wealth of society. In other words, we should understand the occupations synecdochally as struggles over the meaning and power of public and private.