BREAKING: NYPD launches early morning raid and eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters

November 15, 2011 Heather Chin
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Around 200 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters and supporterswere arrested on Tuesday, November 15, during asurprise early morning raid and eviction of Zuccotti Park whereprotesters have been camped for two months.

The sudden police action sparked renewed debate about theprotests, free speech, and how the movement will continue withoutits physical headquarters. It also provided renewed energy to aprotest movement that had begun to plateau a bit in energy levelsas global offshoots met varying degrees of success.

It was shortly after 1 a.m. when word began to spread thathundreds of police from across the five boroughs had surrounded thepark and used a long-range acoustic device to disperse the crowd. Theannouncement came in emails and text messages as press access wasblocked, but live video feeds of the proceedings – which reportedlyincluded tear gas and police in riot gear making individual arrests- were being broadcast online.

A multiple block radius [was] sealed off around Liberty[Street], wrote one Sunset Park resident at the scene. There aresupporters & witnesses at least on the north & south of thesquare but they’ve disallowed press in the square. [The] crowd [is]in good spirits. [There are] hundreds of police in full riotgear.

Some of those arrested included a core group of protesters inthe encampment’s kitchen who chained themselves together -reportedly by linking arms and also using chains on their neck toprevent easy separation.

It also included journalists from the Associated Press and TheNew York Daily News who were detained for reporting andphotographing in and around the general vicinity of Zuccotti Park.Members of the press were later released and their arrestsvoided.

Gabe Pressman, president of the New York Press Club Foundation,criticized, The brash manner in which officers ordered reportersoff the streets and then made them back off until the actions ofthe police were almost invisible and called for an investigationinto such reports of harassment in a letter to Mayor MichaelBloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Bloomberg defended the city and NYPD’s actions as being in theinterest of protect[ing] public safety, and the raid as beingdesigned to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and tominimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood.

A temporary restraining order against theevictions unless [they are] lawful arrests for criminal offenseswas obtained early Tuesday by the National Lawyers Guild citychapter, but was later thrown out by the state Supreme Court, whichruled that protesters can return to the park – but without tentsand sleeping bags.

The nighttime raid followed OWS’s announcement of a plan toshut down Wall Street and occupy the subways with personalstories of hardship and perseverance on Thursday, November 17. Thatday of protest is still ongoing as of press time and has resultedin the arrests of over a hundred protestors in Manhattan.

The show of police force sparked mixed, yet fervent, responsesfrom Brooklyn residents who often supported protesters’ right toprotest while protesters from across the city and thousands ofothers from around the world gathering online to expresssupport.

I think it was a good thing that they kicked them out becauseit had all that stuff in there and it will let other people enjoythe park, said Sereeta V. from Bedford-Stuyvesant. I don’t knowif it was brutal. [The NYPD] should’ve given warning so peoplecould prepare and move, but I hope they keep fighting for what theybelieve in.

[In the late morning], when I arrived at Zuccotti Park, thepolice were inside the park along with maintenance crews from theOne Liberty Plaza building across the street [and] protesters [weredrumming, singing, holding signs and chanting], said Sunset Parkresident George Martinez, a cultural envoy with the StateDepartment. Mostly, the situation was calm as police weregenerally engaged civilly with protestors. I think this makes themovement stronger as more people get outraged by these nasty policeand city tactics.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn agreed, stating, Protectingpublic safety and quality of life for downtown residents, andguaranteeing free expression are not exclusive of one another.

I know of no one-protesters included-who desires a permanentoccupation of lower Manhattan, she added. But provocations undercover of darkness only escalate tensions in a situation that callsfor mediation and dialogue.

Other elected leaders expressed support, including the Black,Latino and Asian Caucus, Brooklyn representatives CouncilmemberJumaane Williams, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and State SenatorDaniel Squadron, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Brooklynresident.


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