Occupy Wall Street News Update of the Day: Following a weekend a crackdowns against Occupy encampments around the country, the “beautification” of Zuccotti Park — the movement’s flagship tent city — began around 1 o’clock this morning, when hundreds of NYPD officers in riot gear descended on sleepy protesters.
The action began following a tweet from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office telling the “occupants of Zuccotti” that they must leave the park and take their tents and tarps with them. The announcement claimed protesters would be allowed to return “after the Park is cleared.”
It was made explicit, however, that tents and sleeping equipment would not be allowed back in, which would mean the effective end of the two-month-long occupation.
Many protesters “left peacefully,” according to NYCLU, but others stayed behind and barricade themselves inside the park. At least 70 people were arrested, including a freelance NPR reporter, journalist Jared Malsin, an AFP photographer, and city council member Ydanis Rodriguez.
Mother Jones staff writer Josh Harkinson is believed to be the only journalist who made it into the park; others were kept out by force, even roughed up. Occupy Wall Street librarians reported that the NYPD trashed the entire OWS library, which included over 5,500 books.
Bloomberg released a statement this morning following the park’s “sanitation,” saying that, due to the number of tents and tarps, it became difficult to ensure public safety, making the eviction necessary. Additionally, the park was increasingly attracting law-breaker who sought to harm others, Bloomberg alleges.
“Some have argued to allow the protesters to stay in the park indefinitely,” the statement continues, “others have suggested we just wait for winter and hope the cold weather drove the protesters away - but inaction was not an option. I could not wait for someone in the park to get killed or to injure another first responder before acting.”
The statement concludes with a “reminder” to protesters that “[n]o right is absolute and with every right comes responsibilities.” The tent city era of the occupation is over, says Bloomberg — “[n]ow [protesters] will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s denouement, the movement is far from finished: Justice Lucy Billings issued a temporary restraining order at 6:30 AM this morning allowing the protesters to return to Zuccotti with their tents. Bloomberg was served the order via fax, but took no immediate action.
Protesters attempted to reclaim the park around 10:30, but were stopped by police and security guards who claimed that a “maintenance issue” was preventing the park from being reopened. Arrests have been reported.
Some, including Ezra Klein and Adbusters — the Canadian magazine that catalyzed the movement — have suggested that Occupy Wall Street may have been handed an exit strategy by the city that will allow it to temporarily bow out with its dignity in tact.
Meanwhile, in Oakland, the fallout from yesterday’s raid on the local Occupy encampment continued as co-Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu followed in chief legal adviser Dan Siegel’s footsteps and resigned. Evicted Occupy Oakland protesters plan to hitch their demonstration wagon to Occupy Cal.
[photo: ap via atlantic.]
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