Six Things About the Zuccotti Eviction: Violence, Press Suppression, and More
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made one thing clear during a press conference early Tuesday morning about his order to evict Occupy Wall Street.
“Make no mistake,” he told news cameras, reporters, and thousands of Americans watching via streaming video. “The final decision to act was mine and mine alone.”
If you weren’t able to spend 16 or so hours glued to the video and Twitter feeds, you might have missed some news about the highly coordinated, often violent police crackdown—one ordered by Bloomberg and Brookfield, the company that owns Zuccotti Park.
Here are the six most important facts you should know about New York City’s eviction of occupiers at Zuccotti Park.
1) Police treated the eviction of peaceful protesters like they were dealing with a war zone or a terrorist cell.
In an incredible first-hand report from Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson—seemingly the only journalist inside the park during the raid—police officers are quoted calling the park a “frozen zone.” Slate’s Dave Weigel reports that this term is more commonly used for areas being guarded against terror threats.
Riot police, Harkinson says, were “indiscriminately dousing the peaceful protesters with what looked like pepper spray or some sort of gas.”
The New York Times reported that training for the midnight raid of the two-month long occupation included “counterterrorism measures” and “scores of mobile officers who are usually used to flood high-crime neighborhoods.“
Yet some of the protesters’ rowdiest actions, as reported by the Times, included one jumping on the hood of a squad car, a few others letting the air out of a police van’s tires, and one occupier throwing a piece of plywood. Potentially dangerous acts—but a far cry from terrorism.
The raid began at 1 a.m. Tuesday when many protesters were asleep; officers caught many off guard.
A member of the Occupy Wall Street media team reported via one live video stream that he had followed police instructions but was not given time to retrieve all of his expensive equipment. Other protesters reported not being allowed to go back into the park to retrieve their medication, money, or IDs.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told the New York Times: “It was appropriate to do it when the smallest number of people were in the park.”
But many observers wondered if there was another reason for the timing: “NYC authorities clearly feel #OWS eviction is just and reasonable. That’s why they are doing it at 2am and barring all press,” tweeted George Zornick of The Nation.
Speaking of barring the press…
2) New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD suppressed media coverage of the eviction on a massive, occasionally violent scale.
As the raid began, police held a one- to three-block blockade around Zuccotti Park and refused to let any members of the media inside.
Bloomberg said this was to “provide protection” to members of the press, but Justin Bank wrote on a Washington Post blog that “most reporters felt stifled, not protected,” echoing statements from many other journalists and professional media organizations.
NY1 TV reporter Lindsay Christ, who tweeted a compelling timeline about the chaos at the scene and her fear, said journalists were being shoved and that police officers threw a New York Post reporter into a choke-hold. Several other journalists, including Mother Jones’ Harkinson, also reported being shoved.
In total, at least seven credentialed journalists, including from NPR and the New York Times, were arrested.
One reporter for Village Local took video of being trapped by police and arrested even as he repeatedly identified himself as a journalist and showed his credentials. The New York Daily News applauded the eviction—until one of their journalists was arrested.
But Rosie Gray of The Village Voice had perhaps the most telling tweet of the night on this topic:
“Me: ‘I'm press!’ Lady cop: ‘not tonight’ ”
3) Bloomberg defied a court order.
A judge issued a temporary injunction early on Tuesday morning ruling that protesters could return to Zuccotti Park with tents and sleeping bags, but Bloomberg ignored this.
Police and private security kept the park closed until just after 6 p.m., an hour after a State Supreme Court justice sided with Bloomberg and the city, ruling that protesters did not have the right to sleep in the park but should be let back in.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald posted on Twitter: “Bloomberg has broken more laws today by ignoring the court order to allow the protesters to return than the arrested protesters have.”
Protesters are now allowed to be in the park at all hours, but they are not permitted to sleep there or bring tents or sleeping bags.
Bloomberg is reserving the right to have park entrants searched.
4) The wave of raids on Occupy camps in multiple cities may have been coordinated between city officials.
So says this report quoting Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who says she was on a conference call with leaders of 18 U.S. cities who “had the same situation” with protesters.
Zuccotti Park was evicted less than 24 hours after the encampment in Oakland was cleared. And over the weekend, major police raids broke up camps in Denver, Portland, and Salt Lake City.
Given the documented care that went into planning New York’s raid, it seems plausible that those 18 mayors might have traded eviction tips.
5) You’d think the NYPD was competing for a “Worst PR Moves” award.
NYPD officers engaged in a number of actions that just plain looked bad:
Visible on live stream coverage, police recklessly threw people’s belongings—whether tents, bicycle generators, or computers—into enormous piles beside the park and later into dumpster trucks.
Widespread reports said that the camp library’s 5,000 books were trashed. In response, the Mayor’s office tweeted that the library was undamaged and available for pickup at a sanitation building along with other confiscated property—but library working group members found today that much of the property was still missing or damaged, and laptops were destroyed.
Police arrested a woman in a wheelchair for being among the occupiers of a new space at 6th Avenue and Canal Street. They reportedly left her “sprawled on the ground” for a while.
They also confiscated an American flag. No, seriously.
6) Protesters kept busy—and will continue to do so.
Shortly after being evicted, protesters marched to Foley Square, where they held a General Assembly. Foley Square looks to be a home base for future actions—a mass demonstration, for instance, is planned for today at 5 p.m.
Protesters attempted to take over another space owned by Trinity Church at 6th Avenue and Canal Street, but that attempt failed after police arrested everyone in that space. Trinity officials had not given permission for the protesters to occupy the space, though they have offered support to protesters in the past.
Four journalists were arrested along with a few dozen others; some arrests were reportedly violent.
Tim Pool streamed video of the eviction and other protester activity using his cell phone for about 18 hours non-stop, garnering more than 10,000 viewers at some moments. Occupiers kept him going during the day with donations of batteries and bananas.
After the Trinity space occupation failed, protesters marched down Broadway, closing down the street. Pool filmed the march while leaning out of an office window.
And then police finally let the protesters back into Zuccotti Park, which Pool reported took on a party-like atmosphere, with people celebrating inside. Even police were smiling, Pool said, noting one of them told him it was like being paid overtime for babysitting.
But there was also work to be done. Protesters held a massive General Assembly with about 1,500 people late Tuesday night. Later, organizers tried to find places for displaced protesters to sleep.
And, as they stood on in-ground light fixtures illuminated for the first time since Occupy Wall Street began, in a park void of tents but full of people, Occupy Wall Street began forming plans for the future.
Emily Crockett is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @emilycrockett.
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