Like the rest of the world, I woke this morning to learn of the dead of the night expulsion of the Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zucotti Park where they have been encamped since September 17th, inspiring millions across the country and the world as they did so. The NYPD raid led to some 70 arrests and the destruction of all manner of property. The pretense for the assault was that the park had become an issue of public safety. For this reason the entire area was sealed off, the Brooklyn Bridge shut down and the press forbidden from witnessing the eviction – a transparent and terrifying violation of freedom of the press.
The expulsion is almost certainly part of a concerted effort by mayors across America to stomp the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement out in one brutal blow.
It will not work.
Reports on the internet and in emails were confused and confusing. People were gathering in Foley Square. People were being arrested at 6th Ave and Canal St. The courts ruled the protesters could return to the park. The courts ruled that the protesters could not return to the park. Around 4:00 pm I got on my bike and made my way through all the places people were said to have gathered but found not a one. Not knowing what else to do, I continued downtown to Zuccotti Park and arrived there around 4:30 to find first an army of police. Some wore riot gear and carried rings of plastic handcuffs and huge black batons which you do not want bashing in your brain.
The NYPD had surrounded the park and were refusing entry to anyone but their own. The police, in effect, occupied Zuccotti Park. Surrounding the park were hundreds of citizens of all ages and races, many carrying signs. The mood was somber yet defiant. It was also tense and very, very different than any I’ve felt there before.
Many people wore hand written signs reading “99%,” which someone had made by the hundreds and was handing out. Little by little I made my way around the circumference of the park looking for familiar faces and finding none but I did meet the maker of the little signs and took one. Occasionally, for unknown reasons, the police would block a sidewalk. This led on two occasions to chants of, “ Who are you protecting? ” The police remained silent but people called out the names of various corporations, the most popular being Goldman Sachs.
Just after 5:00 I was told by a member of the National Lawyers Guild that the court had ruled the protesters could return to the park but they could not camp there. A few minutes later, someone else told me he had just heard something entirely different. Meanwhile, as more and more people left their work and joined in the crowd was silently swelling.
As darkness fell, three helicopters appeared, hovering high above the park.
Jimmy McMillan, The Rents Too Damn High Party candidate for governor ambled through the crowds shacking hands and telling all and sundry that their rents are too damn high.
Then, a cheer broke out as it was announced that the police were letting people re-enter the park if only a couple at a time. I stood upon a steel barricade and glimpsed two young men gleefully running through the park waving American flags.
The mood seemed to lighten and some of the tension lifted.
Still, it was clear that neither side was budging. Like the economy, like the culture, like the country, this was a situation that could not be sustained. Something had to break.
Shortly thereafter as I was riding down Maiden Lane, four or five blocks away, I could hear helicopters flying slowly over my head in the darkness.
This is getting very interesting.