I woke up at 7 a.m. literally to the sound of NY1.com announcing a crackdown on Zuccotti Park, which had occurred in the stealth darkness of 1 a.m., under media blackout. I was later to find out from alternet.org that pepper spray and batons were used to clear tents as bedraggled protestors left their home in the park to reconvene for a General Assembly in Foley Square. They vowed to keep going with the occupation. Over 200 were arrested, including city Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
At 8.am., New York City’s Napoleonic Mayor Bloomberg was holding a press conference to whitewash his actions that the attack had been to steam-clean the park and remove all tents, tarps, tables, books, etc., of dangerous materials, i.e., fuel or generators for heating, via garbage trucks and over-stoked police. I suppose if cleanliness was close to godliness this would sanctify his actions of usurping the protestors First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. He stated he was going to allow the protestors to return but not with their trashed materials, and, so long as others could express their opinions or simply sit in the park opinion-less. If you believe that, there’s a bridge a few blocks away I can sell you.
I also heard that the proviso of whether or not the protestors could return with all their gear was awaiting a judge’s order, which by 8 a.m. hadn’t been located, at least according to Bloomberg. In fact, as some members of OWS reentered the park they were asked to leave. Meanwhile, the National Lawyers’ Guild had obtained a temporary restraining order “directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises with their belongings.”
As I rubbed my eyes, both Twitter photos and NYTV1 showed Zuccotti Park as a bare, ruin, a standing pile of manufactured garbage. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg added that Westfield Properties, owners of the park, had asked him for the “cleaning.” How obliging of him. In fact, the mayor took “complete responsibility” for the decision to send in the clowns, excuse me, the joint armed forces of NYPD, NYFD, and the Department of Sanitation. So, perhaps the mayor will personally reimburse OWS members for any losses they sustained in the illegal bust.
According to Twitter and OWS texts, and press releases from the mayor’s office, the 1 a.m. raid cleared the “protests two-month long ‘model society’ of its infrastructure, including spaces and structures like the women’s safe space tent, the medical tent, and thousands of books from the ‘People’s Library,’ which here handily seen in the back of a nearby dumpster. Cops told people “’onfiscated items’ would be available at the Department of Sanitation at West 57th Street under the West Side Highway.” Good luck.
Almost all downtown traffic was blocked off in ways only the NYPD can come up with, so that protestors were beaten for being on the sidewalk or in the street. Scroll to see Video on page 2. Reports on Twitter, an OWS press release, and internal emails on OWS listserves reported that both downtown subways and the Brooklyn Bridge were closed down. Airspace was blocked off and a barricade erected to keep supporters from entering. Bystanders who arrived to help were pepper-sprayed and/or beaten, not a great day for America let alone New York.
A dispatch from Anna Leak Miller was one such story, “The police came towards us. I was tweeting when I realized there was a funny smell and something in my eyes that was making them burn . . . I was shoved against a wall by a cop with a riot shield telling me to, ‘Keep it moving’ . . . Their batons were out. It was violence.”
Congratulations Mayor Bloomberg, Ray Kelly, et al. for descending to the level of Oakland, Denver, and the other worst examples of civic oppressors. Below are a series of unedited tweets from AlterNet’s Kristen Gwynne, who arrived on the scene after 1 a.m.:
Riot police won’t anybody in #ows. Looking for alternate route in. .ahh hang in there guys
Cops everywhere. At least 1 pepper sprayed cops pushing us
Holy shit this us crazy pepper spray, pushing us, beating and arresting peaceful protestors#ows
They’re literally pushing us down cortlandt. Violent cops #ows
This brute force was used on supporters in the park and others trying to get in to secure the space as well as some members of the press. LRADS (sound cannons) were noticed and some say used, but there were no confirmed reports of usage.
Worst of all, there was a media blackout that literally did not allow press from entering the scene while the space was cleared. A number of newspeople on Twitter expressed anger and frustration that their right to report on the scene was violated. The NYPD was noted to say to them, “You’re not press tonight.” Ah, Democracy is closed today and will reopen tomorrow, if you’re clean, good, and decent, like Mayor Bloomberg and his ilk.
At in These Times, Alison Kilkenny had a report from Twitter: “Some protesters chained themselves to trees in Liberty [Park], and some early reports indicate the NYPD cut down the trees in order to remove the demonstrators.” Did somebody say “Police State” or was that just a buzz saw in my brain? In fact, here is a verbatim timeline of the NYPD raid from OWS via alternet. Note: some of the reports are unconfirmed . . .
3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.
3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in
3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police
3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.
3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon
3:08 a.m. heard on livestream: “they’re bringing in the hoses.”
3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square
2:55 a.m. NYC council-member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.
2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen
2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5,000 donated books in dumpster.
2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed
2:38 a.m. 400–500 marching north to Foley Square
2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down
2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.
2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times
2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square
2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square
2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed—reports of at least one reporter sprayed
2:03 a.m. Massive Police Presence at Canal and Broadway
1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.
1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.
1:34 a.m. CBS News Helicopter Livestream
1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.
1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.
1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.
1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting “This is what a police state looks like.”
1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.
1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.
Naturally, it was a dramatic and even traumatic experience. One protester from the People’s Library blogged his experience on this “emotional night”:
Campers across the park quickly climbed out of their tents screaming, “WAKE UP THE POLICE ARE HERE!” I ran into the library and let the handful of people sleeping in there know what was happening, then unlocked and pulled the OWS POETRY ANTHOLOGY from the shelves and strapped them to my body, then climbed atop a table in the park and read poems from the anthology. Immediately, the people of Liberty Plaza launched into action, a group of about a hundred protesters took to the kitchen and U-Locked/tied themselves down. After reading the third poem, the cops began to enter the park and I realized that I would most likely lose all of my possessions so I quickly grabbed a bag of my personal stuff, ran into the library and dumped a bunch of boxes of books onto the floor to make the cleaning up more difficult for the cops then ran my personal stuff and a few amazing books to a friends house around the corner. I naively thought I could get my stuff to my friends house and then re-enter the park but could only get to the corner of Liberty and Broadway after prepping myself for a long night.
At Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte had these thoughts to offer on the destruction of the library and what it symbolizes:
Media Bistro is reporting that the NYPD destroyed over 5,000 books that have been amassed in the OWS library over the past two months. The young protesters who were volunteering as librarians tweeted the ordeal of watching what has come to be, historically speaking, the symbol of authoritarian governments oppressing its citizens.
“’OWSLibrary ’The People’s Library NYPD destroying american cultural history, they’re destroying the documents, the books, the artwork of an event in our nation’s history.
“Right now, the NYPD are throwing over 5,000 books from our library into a dumpster. Will they burn them?
“Protesters locked arms and tried to keep the dumpsters full of books and tents from leaving, but obviously to no avail. Personally, I donated about a dozen books to OWS, mostly about feminism in response to requests for more feminist discourse and history. Some of them weren’t exactly books you can just saunter into a local library branch or Barnes & Noble to find, either, such as the radical feminism reader. So this image of the books being tossed into the trash is just adding to the emotional distress of this situation.”
So don’t believe the lies. If this was just about a clean park, there would have been no need to go over the fucking top in the assaults on speech and press that included threatening journalists (and arresting one), squelching witnesses, and destroying over 5,000 books that were provided, free of charge, by supporters who want to assist protesters’ desire to educate themselves and, frankly, give them something to do during their downtime.
If the above is not a scene from Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian novel, which presents a future American society where reading is outlawed and firemen start fires to burn books, then only the vision of firemen burning books has been replaced by the NYPD throwing books into a huge garbage dumpster. Written in the early years of the Cold War, Bradbury’s novel is a critique of what he saw as issues in American society of the era.
So, too, as Occupy Wall Street tries to move forward from that and this era to a more equitable, sustainable future, the forces of billionaire Mayor Bloomberg and American government force it backwards towards the Stone Age. Nice job, Mike. If you, like former Mayor Ed Koch used to ask, “How am I doing?,” the resounding answer from those who love freedom and democracy would be “lousy.” And you can take that to your bankster friends. As of now, that’s what we all will have to live with.
Judge rules against Occupy Wall Street encampment
By COLLEEN LONG and VERENA DOBNIK
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.