There was also opportunism here of another, more negative sort.
Those desperate to discredit the Occupy Movement found a propaganda goldmine in the presence of anti-social and/or intoxicated homeless.
The Occupiers had done a great job of utilizing the symbolism of homelessness (sleeping on the street, telling their stories on cardboard signs), in order to spread their message. On-lookers didn't need to hear a speech or read a book to grasp that rampant Capitalism and big business government were ruining us all.
But indiscriminate inclusivity was diverting energy and action away from the movement and into, as one person from Occupy London put it, 'babysitting people, when we should be working on ideas and outreach.' Some of the more intimidated campaigners started to drift away. They were afraid for their personal safety.
It also became difficult to attract passers-by into the camp to hear the message of the movement, when they could see loutish behavior going on within. Yet their presence may not have been accidental.
Christopher Herring and Zoltán Gluck, writing in Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America, witnessed one telling scene in Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park). A homeless man named Harris caused some dismay with his tale.
He reported being awoken by police officers, while sleeping on his regular park bench. They had directed him to join the protesters of Occupy Wall Street, using the carrot of free food and the stick of being moved on, if he attempted to bed down anywhere else.
This was, he confirmed, a situation which was being repeated all over New York City. It was not viewed by either Harris or the Occupiers, as an altruistic gesture by the authorities. It was a blatant attempt to ensure that potentially disruptive elements would be introduced into the camps, above and beyond the insertion of paid agitators.
For the right-wing press, this amounted to a win-win situation. While such disruptive elements were there, then papers like the Daily Mail could run headlines like Desecration, defecation and class A drugs: Children found living in squalor at St Paul's protest camp. Mainstream media could focus in on the slurred, inarticulate and free-loading, then portray them as representative of Occupy as a whole. It played nicely into the stereotypes already pushed onto the middle-of-the-road viewers back home.
If the protesters, mindful of this and fearful of personal safety, were to banish the rogue homeless, then they could just as easily be labelled 'champagne Socialists'. They shifted easily, in the public eye, to being silly, little kids, with no real grasp on the complexities of the real world.
It was a public relations nightmare, as canny city strategists no doubt guessed it would be. But more to the point, it adds legitimacy to calls from politicians to simply close them down and shut them up.