First, a video from Russia Today:
Following in the wake of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, New York Mayor Michael ordered a pre-dawn police raid on Zuccotti Park this morning, sweeping away Occupy Wall Street.
His aim, he said, was to make the park available to the public.
Here’s the lead from the New York Times story by Corey Kilgannon and Colin Moynihan:
Hundreds of police officers early Tuesday cleared the park in Lower Manhattan that had been the nexus of the Occupy Wall Street movement, arresting dozens of people there after warning that the nearly two-month-old camp would be “cleared and restored” but that demonstrators who did not leave would face arrest.
The protesters, about 200 of whom have been staying in the park overnight, initially resisted with chants of “Whose park? Our park!”
The massive operation in and around Zuccotti Park was intended to empty the birthplace of a protest movement that has inspired hundreds of tent cities from coast to coast. On Monday in Oakland, Calif., hundreds of police officers raided the main encampment there, arresting 33 people. Protesters returned later in the day. But the Oakland police said no one would be allowed to sleep there anymore, and promised to clear a second camp nearby.
The police action was quickly challenged as lawyers for the protesters obtained a temporary restraining order barring the city and the park’s private landlord from evicting protesters or removing their belongings. It was not immediately clear how the city would respond. The judge, Justice Lucy Billings of State Supreme Court Judge in Manhattan, scheduled a hearing for later Tuesday.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning, had issued a statement explaining the reasoning behind the sweep. “The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day,” the mayor said in the statement. “Every since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with” because the protesters had taken over the park, “making it unavailable to anyone else.”
“I have become increasingly concerned – as had the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties – that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community,” Mr. Bloomberg said. He added that on Monday, Brookfield asked the city to assist in enforcing “the no sleeping and camping rules.
“But make no mistake,” the mayor said, “the final decision to act was mine.”Some of the displaced protesters regrouped a few blocks away at Foley Square, with the row of courthouses on Centre Street as a backdrop and police officers looking on. The protesters swapped stories of their confrontations with the police and talked about what to do next.
UPDATE: The Guardian‘s liveblog adds this Orwellian twist to the story:
There have been numerous reports today that accredited journalists were prevented from witnessing the eviction of Zuccotti Park. Bloomberg is asked about this: he says the action was taken to “protect the members of the press. We have to provide protection and we have done exactly that.”
UPDATE II: The Guardian has posted Mayor Bloomberg’s official justification for the raid here.
UPDATE III: From the Occupy Wall Street website.
The NYPD raided Liberty Plaza in the middle of the night, and while we put up a good stand until they moved in to arrest as at the very end, Liberty Plaza is now clear. But our re-occupation plans are already underway.
This movement can’t be contained in one square block in lower Manhattan. It is bigger than that. You can’t evict an idea whose time had come.
Show your support. Turn out en masse….
Here is the current list of critical events on Tuesday 11/15/11:
- 7:00 AM: Rally at Foley Square
- 9:00 AM: Re-Occupy Meetup at 6th Ave and Canal Street.
- 12:00 N: SDNY Pickup, 650 W 57st street. According to a flyer distributed early in the raid, people can pickup anything that was not destroyed by the NYPD. To us, that doesn’t seem to leave much, but good luck.We are the 99% and we’re still here. Please donate to help us rebuild.
The police seem to have taken the demonstrators by surprise: “I was dead asleep. Then I was like, oh man, there was cops kicking the tents and people yelling ‘this is not a drill!'” Mutsukai Iroppoi, 22, told the AFP news agency.
“They gave us about 20 minutes to get our things together,” protester Sam Wood told Reuters news agency.
Another protester, Timothy Fitzgerald, told the BBC World Service’s World Today programme:
“They just turned up, they didn’t make any effort to communicate with us ahead of time. They rallied in secret along the waterfront, on South Street, and they just kind of rolled in with all of their equipment, dozens of lighting trucks and probably several hundred cops.”
The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan at the scene said protesters could be seen leaving the park, dragging their belongings. There were some scuffles with police.Riot police, wearing helmets and carrying shields and batons, blocked off access to the park, which was lit up with spotlights, and police helicopters with searchlights circled over the area.