Midnight Raid: NYPD Invade Zuccotti Park, Force Out Occupy Wall Street Protesters
By Lila Shapiro and Maxwell Strachan
First Posted: 11/15/11 05:59 AM ET
In an unexpected move, the New York City Police Department descended on Zuccotti Park around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, proceeding to evict protesters, clear the park and arrest those that stood in their way.
Police told demonstrators that the 2-month-old camp must be temporarily emptied for cleaning, citing “health and fire safety” hazards, and that protesters could either leave on their own volition or stay and be arrested and stripped of their belongings. By 4 a.m., the park was cleared and hundreds of protesters, uncertain of their next move and blocked by police barricades, wandered the financial district.
According to The Associated Press, 70 arrests had already been made.
While police say protesters will be allowed back in the park in the morning, their tents will not, according to an eviction notice handed to occupiers.
“You are required to immediately remove all property, including tents, sleeping bags and tarps from Zuccotti Park. That means you must remove the property now,” the notice read. “You will be allowed to return to the park in several hours, when this work is complete. If you decide to return, you will not be permitted to bring your tents, sleeping bags, tarps and similar materials with you.”
Although the park was cleared, some protesters did not appear ready to give in to the eviction notice’s demands.
“This is a standoff,” said James Rose, 39, an artist who had been occupying the park on and off for a month. Rose is a member of the Arts and Culture working group, and had been out for the evening at an Occupy Wall Street arts show offsite. He returned home to find himself locked out by the barricades.
He gestured at a line of roughly 30 cops, setting up a fresh row of metal fences along the side of Cortland Street, one block north of the park. “We’re being herded like sheep now,” Rose said. “But this is so not over.”
Garrett Perkins, 29, standing with two stuffed camping backpacks, said he had been sleeping in Zuccotti when hundreds of cops surrounded the tents. Most protesters did not move, he said, even after the police first announced that the park must be cleared. Then the police began throwing out tents, cuffing occupiers and using pepper spray.
Perkins travelled to Occupy Wall Street from Alaska with a large collection of cold weather gear. When the choice came down to losing his gear or walking, he opted to hold onto his belongings.
“I thought it would be a blow to myself and the movement if I lost all this cold weather gear,” Perkins said. “This is a long uphill battle and we’re going to need it.”
Protesters did not appear ready to give up the fight — or the occupation of Zuccotti — despite the setback.
“The movement started at Zuccotti, but it’s bigger than Zuccotti,” said Jerry Letto, a 24-year-old deliveryman from Brooklyn. Letto said demonstrators would “definitely” return to Zuccotti, although the time frame remained unclear at that time.
“I don’t know about that,” Billie Greenfield, a 24-year-old standing nearby said. Greenfield wasn’t without hope, however. “This will only make us stronger,” she said.
Through the night, protesters routinely sang “We Shall Overcome” and chanted “We are the 99 percent.” Others beat drums and yelled: “New York, Cairo, Wisconsin, push us down we’ll rise again!” They did so under the watchful eye of hundreds of police officers.
Shen Tong, a protester and former leader of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, tried to calm the growing tension between protesters and police. Addressing a crowd of about a hundred people two blocks from the park, he shouted, and his words were echoed by all those standing near.
“Brothers and sisters of the NYPD who used to think you’re not part of this. Tonight, you’re a part of this,” he said. “You used to think you could just keep your head down and get along, or maybe get ahead, but tonight, we tell you, you are involved!”
Shen said the key to winning the night was to stay mobile. In light of the night’s events, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly planning to address the situation at an 8 a.m. press conference. Demonstrators had previously planned to stage “a block party the 1 percent will never forget” on Wall Street Thursday in commemoration of the Occupy Wall Street’s two-month anniversary.
Molly O’Toole contributed reporting.
Occupy Wall Street: New York police clear Zuccotti Park
There were chaotic scenes as protesters resisted police
BBC News, 15 November 2011
New York police have dismantled the Occupy Wall Street camp in Zuccotti Park and arrested about 200 people following a raid in the early hours.
Protesters were ordered to leave at about 01:00 (06:00 GMT), before police began removing tents and property.
The New York camp was set up in September to protest against economic inequality – it inspired similar demonstrations around the world.
It was the latest camp to be cleared by police in US cities in recent days.
Following Tuesday’s eviction, a New York state judge issued an order ruling protesters could return to the park, pending a hearing at 11:30 (16:30 GMT).
At the scene
For the city of New York, this has been a balancing act all along between the constitutional right to free speech and freedom of expression and the right of people in the city to get on with their lives.
City officials tried to walk that tightrope, but in the end the park’s owners said the conditions there were disgusting and asked for police to clear it.
The message here is that income inequality is widening in America and that the banks received a bailout after the financial crisis which protesters feel they were responsible for causing.
And that message does resonate in America, where people are still struggling with a fragile economy, but equally here in New York, there has been a division.
But the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the park would remain closed while officials reviewed the legal situation.
In a news conference, Mr Bloomberg said there was a conflict between protecting public health and safety and protesters’ First Amendment rights.
“Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,” Mr Bloomberg said.
“The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out – but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others.”
Police in New York gave an announcement as their operation began, telling protesters: “The city has determined that the continued occupation of Zuccotti Park poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard.”
Leaflets were handed out telling occupants to “immediately remove all private property” and warning they would be arrested if they interfered with the operation.
Any belongings left behind would be put into storage, said the notice, and demonstrators would not be allowed to bring camping equipment back.
Street cleaning crews then moved in to clear rubbish and hose down the privately owned park.
The area around the park was sealed off and journalists were prevented from entering. Some of the activists accused police of using excessive force and pepper spray.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said most people left the park when ordered, but that a small group of people had refused.
The 200 or so people arrested included some who had chained themselves together.
The authorities say the park has been cleared for cleaning, and that protesters would be allowed back into the park, but without the encampment.
Hundreds of people moved to nearby Foley Square to continue their demonstration. A message was sent from a Twitter account,@OccupyFoleySq, set up on Tuesday morning, saying: “We are here and growing.”
The city authorities and Mayor Bloomberg had come under pressure from residents and businesses to shut down the camp, which had about 200 occupants as it neared its two-month anniversary.
There had been plans for a street carnival to descend on Wall Street on Thursday in an attempt to shut it down, to mark the camp’s two-month anniversary.
By daylight the camp had been entirely cleared, a step welcomed by some local businesses.
“I support them but we have to work, not do revolution,” a juice stall vendor told the AFP news agency. “I don’t support revolution or idleness. Idleness is not good for our country.”
But activists released a statement saying that while they may have been physically removed, “you can’t evict an idea whose time has come”.
The Occupy movement, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and economic protest camps in Spain, is calling for a more equal distribution of the world’s wealth and a fairer response to the global economic crisis.