By the time I got the call, it was too late. The city had shut down most means of ingress from Brooklyn (or anyplace else) to lower Manhattan, including the Brooklyn Bridge and the 2, 3, 4, 5, and E trains. Police had formed a wide perimeter around the park, and supporters could not get within a block of it in any direction. Doormen were told to lock residents into their own buildings. Reporters were penned off in an apparent attempted media blackout:
A CBS News helicopter was ordered out of the sky by the police, who said they needed the airspace, according to Anthony DeRosa of Reuters.
The network had no better luck on the ground:
CBS News correspondent Manuel Gallegus reports that he and other credentialed media are being kept blocks away from the park, but he could see a bulldozer heading for the camp under police escort.
A number of observers corroborate accounts of an arrested New York Times reporter (although this is currently not mentioned in the Times’ article). Blocked out from obtaining their own coverage, NYTimes.com began serving the protesters’ livestream. Mother Jones’ intrepid Josh Harkinson, who managed to make his way past the barricades and into the park, was physically dragged away while live-tweeting the pepper-spraying (or fire-extinguishing?) of supporters guarding the kitchen, and was violently shoved out of range while attempting to photograph a protester carried out of the park on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
Police set up “a battery of Klieg lights,” shining them into the park and announcing through (surely prohibited?) megaphones that the park would be “cleared and restored.” They moved in with pepper spray and sound cannons, wildly swinging batons and wrestling peaceful protesters to the ground as occupiers chanted their request for officers to “disobey your orders.” Tents were crushed and tossed into metal bins, along with tables, chairs, signs, artwork, food, documents, over 5,000 books from the People’s Library (a handful of which were once mine), and countless other supplies. Protesters attempting to leave with their belongings were reportedly stopped, and their posessions confiscated. Swarms of protesters surrounded and temporarily blocked the dump trucks laden with the encampment’s remains from leaving the park, but were eventually circumvented.
Jumaane D. Williams, a City Council member representing Brooklyn’s 45th district, arrived at the police perimeter decrying the NYPD’s “#brazen violation of the #FirstAmendment” behind the “shield of night,” and announced that one of his NYCC colleagues, Ydanis Rodriguez, had been injured and arrested by the police:
I can report that @ydanis, a #NYC Council Member, has been #arrested at #OccupyWallStreet & is bleeding from the head thanks to the #NYPD.
The Baldwins found #OWS much safer than the homeless shelter. They’d joined a working group that hands out blankets to other occupiers.
Now all the blankets are in a trash bin. As is all of their possessions. They have no IDs, nothing except the clothes they are wearing
Regardless of our differing politics or our personal impressions of the Occupy movement and its methods, we should have much to agree on this morning. The city and its police force have carefully orchestrated and presided over a massive and brash violation of the First Amendment, and exercised terrifyingly excessive paramilitary force against a few hundred peaceable campers. Which looks more like an occupation to you? Their tactics should be universally abhorred.
Many people here have been beaten and arrested, released. We need ur help 2 feed them! U know what to do! 212-766-3200
But whether or not it sets up more tents, the movement has raised indelible questions about the distribution of wealth and power that can not be simply “cleared” away so that an untenable status quo may be “restored.” As an unsigned article on the Occupy Wall Street website prophetically proclaimed a few days ago*, “you can’t evict an idea whose time has come.”
UPDATE (7:50 AM): The NLG has won a court order against the city pending a State Supreme Court hearing later this morning:
At around 6 AM on November 15, 2011, attorneys associated with the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild working as the Liberty Park Legal Working Group obtained a temporary restraining order against the City of New York, various City agencies, and Brookfield properties directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises with their belongings.
UPDATE (3:25 PM): The fearless Josh Harkinson‘s Twitter stream went quiet for a while. I worried he was among the several journalists arrested in the ongoing unrest this afternoon, but it turns out he was collecting his solitary experience behind police lines for Mother Jones:
As the two men talked, a sweaty-faced man wearing a neon vest over a business suit walked up and started tearing protest signs off the wall.”I couldn’t wait,” he said. “Destroying things never felt so good.”
Needless to say, it’s a must-read.
UPDATE (4:04 PM): The mayor’s office claims that protesters’ property is waiting for them in storage on 57th street. What condition the tents and clothes and personal effects may be in remains to be seen, but photographic evidence was included to reassure “the people” that their hostage library collection has not been destroyed. Regardless of the imminent court ruling, writers, readers and progressive retailers plan to restock and rebuild the library tonight.
UPDATE (5:05 PM): Alas, the court has sided with the city:
the movants have not demonstrated that they have a first amendment right to remain in zucotti park
FINAL UPDATE: Despite the Twitter outcry, it does not appear that any of Zuccotti’s trees have been felled.
And despite their tweeted professions and carefully cropped photographs, the city did not “safely store” the People’s Library collection. It is, in fact, largely missing or destroyed, including books signed by their authors, laptops, the pavilion donated by Patti Smith, even this decidedly Good Book:
[ *It has since been updated slightly. ]
[ **See “Final Update,” above. ]