From a distance, the tents and tarps set up on Thursday night in New York City’s Foley Square might have looked like the new home for the recently displaced Occupy Wall Street protesters. But upon closer inspection, a sign revealed it to be the set for an Occupy-themed episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Occupy Wall Street protesters began to crash the set just after midnight, the New York Daily News reports, following a call of action to “mockupy” the episode’s production. Eventually, more than 100 demonstrators filled Foley Square; one protester’s sign read “We are a movement, not a TV plot,” while another yelled: “Occupy Wall Street is not for sale.”
“This is bastardization going on,” a man who goes by Scooby 49 told the Daily News. “This is not the case of ‘imitation is a form of flattery.’ This is insulting.”
However, it seems some protesters were able to have some fun with the “mockupation”: people laughed over seeing replicas of the “People’s Kitchen” and the library tent. “That’s what happened to the books!” laughed one protester, referring to the overnight raid on Zuccotti Park, during which around 4,000 books had been confiscated. A short standoff between protesters and police officers demanding they evacuate the park ended without any drama, and the Law & Order crew ended up having to dismantle the set due to the show’s permit being pulled by the NYPD.
Law & Order showrunner Warren Leight took to Twitter Friday morning to give his take on the night’s events: “Saddened by last night’s event. We understand OWS emotions run high, and also protesters’ fear of having their images and history co-opted by corporate media—the irony here is the scene we couldn’t shoot portrayed OWS in a sympathetic light.”
The tweet (which was deleted shortly after Leight posted it) brings up an interesting question: Could a sympathetic portrayal of the movement on a popular television show—depicting its efforts and the people who support it—actually do more to raise awareness about the ongoing struggles of Occupy Wall Street? If the set was such a replica, right down to the signs and structure of the self-sustaining community that was set up at Zuccotti, maybe it would have been a service to the movement to gain the attention of TV viewers and couch potatoes across the country. But then again, NBC bigwigs profiting off the struggles of real-life demonstrators just proves their point.
For more on Occupy Wall Street, check out What Is Occupy? Inside the Global Movement, a new book from the editors of TIME. To buy a copy as an e-book or a paperback, go to time.com/whatisoccupy.