It’s not as if artists have been uninvolved in the Occupy movement previously. Jeff Sharlet and the other folks at Occupy Writers are putting the moral force of art to the wheel, whether they’re writing original work about movement or holding storytelling events at the site of the now-dismantled library. And I don’t think that artists are myopic enough to need a library’s destruction to get angry — the images of last night’s eviction, and the terms of that eviction, seem to have been galvanizing enough. “Reads like progress for the movement, seeing city’s odd press release about ‘free speech’ versus ‘pitching tents.’ Issue coming to fore..?” Community‘s Dan Harmon tweeted, adding, “I’m nervous, too. Nervous that it will fizzle, nervous that it won’t.” Questlove broke the news for a lot of followers that the eviction was starting when he drove by last night. Raising Hope star Martha Plimpton (who is pretty politically engaged on Twitter anyway) is retweeting Rachel Maddow producer Jamil Smith on the language of cleanliness and the encampments.
And so I hope that the eviction, the attempt at a press blackout, and the dismantling, however temporary, of the library inspire some vigorous exercises of free speech,. I hope we don’t just get one-off essays — though many of the pieces up at Occupy Writers are phenomenal. I want to see novels, and television shows, and movies, and plays that take on income inequality, and financial regulation, and debt. You can shut down an encampment, and I imagine lots of cities will. You can ban and arrest individual reporters and throw out individual donated books. But inequity, suppression of protest, and violence tend to be pretty good fodder for art, whether it’s high or low. Artists can help make sure that clearing a park doesn’t mean the end of a movement.