Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protestors filled Zuccotti Park on Saturday to celebrate the first six months of the movement. The action began midday, and included marches by groups of protestors around nearby streets in the Financial District. By 10 PM the crowd in Zuccotti–also known as Liberty Park–had swelled to over 700 (some reports go as high as 1,000).
The mood in the park was light and celebratory when the sounds of bagpipes were heard, approaching from the west. Hundreds in the park moved toward the noise, only to witness NYPD officers preventing the pipers from entering the park, arresting at least one. Some on the scene said that the pipers were not affiliated with OWS; they had come to NYC from Brittany to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and later decided to play for occupiers.
While the pipers had drawn much of the crowd to the southwestern part of the park, uniformed NYPD officers moved in to remove a makeshift tent (a plastic tarp thrown over a rope strung between two trees). As police were doing this, loud shouts of “get out” were heard. That order came from a blue-shirted community affairs officer, though, and was not directed at protestors but at the uniformed cops that had just moved in to remove the tarp. Those officers complied and filed quickly toward the east side of the park.
Shortly after that, however, dozens more uniformed NYPD moved into position around the park, and at around 11:30 PM entered the park en masse. Though no announcement was audible on the east side of Zuccotti, reports say police told protestors the park was being closed for “cleaning.” While many occupiers moved out of the park, a large number remained, some linking arms, others behind orange netting recognizable as the material police have used to “kettle” protestors in the past.
At that point, police began grabbing protestors and placing them in plastic cuffs. Some were escorted out of the park to waiting wagons on Broadway. Other occupiers lay down or went limp and had to be carried out of the park.
But other protestors encountered a more violent response. Accounts include reports of a broken thumb, possible broken jaw, and police using their boots to hold protestors’ faces on the ground. Others said they were pushed forcefully down the street; one visitor to the park reported being hit from behind with a nightstick.
The NYPD quickly filled the two wagons they had waiting at the scene. Police cleared a swath of sidewalk on the east side of the park and constructed a pen out of metal barricades to hold other arrestees until more transport arrived. Some of those protestors were face-down on the ground, others were standing; some were held by police.
An MTA city bus labeled “out of service” arrived, and police began loading it with cuffed occupiers. Some were escorted easily onto the bus, but others were moved more aggressively. Multiple officers were seen holding down one arrestee inside the bus.
One woman, wearing a bright yellow shirt, was moved forcibly onto the bus, only to be moved off of it minutes later. The woman was jerking wildly and appeared to be having a seizure. She fell or was forced to the ground within feet of leaving the bus. Some close to the scene said they saw police holding her down with knees on her torso.
Members of the crowd shouted at cops to get her medical attention. Nothing happened immediately; it was about 20 or 30 minutes later that a Fire Department EMT and ambulance arrived on the scene.
As police were clearing Zuccotti, a group of 100 or more mobilized to march up Broadway, announcing their destination was Union Square Park. Dozens of NYPD followed in squad cars, vans, on scooters and on foot–stopping marchers at several intersections, occasionally warning them to stay on the sidewalk. It is now reported that near 10th street, at around 12:20 AM, police became more violent, punching one marcher in the face, slamming him against a glass door, breaking the glass and drawing blood.
[Note on the account above: I was at Zuccotti Park from about 10:15 till around midnight. I then marched north along Broadway and caught up with marchers. I broke off at Broome Street to get to a computer and upload video. When I use terms like "reports," "reported," "accounts include" or "some said," I am conveying what others on the scene told me or what others have reported since. Otherwise, if it happened in the time I was there, I saw or heard it, myself.]
Now for the video:
This first video begins as cuffed occupiers are walked or dragged out of Zuccotti Park and onto waiting police wagons. The two wagons are quickly filled and their doors closed. Remaining arrestees are made to wait in the street, and then inside a hastily constructed pen of metal barricades.
At approximately 5:44 in the video, one handcuffed protestor yells, “This police officer is not wearing his name or his badge number. Please report it.”
About ten minutes later, a city bus arrives to transport the remaining arrestees. At about 33 seconds in, a woman with red hair and a bright yellow shirt is briefly seen being led inside the bus. Approximately one minute later, the same woman is visible, but this time is jerking uncontrollably as she is pulled off the bus. Once off, she either falls or is brought to the ground by the police restraining her.
Embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, speaking in an interview with the BBC (excerpted on The Takeaway radio program–audio of Quan starts at the 5:30 mark), casually mentioned that she was on a conference call with leaders of 18 US cities shortly before a wave of raids broke up Occupy Wall Street encampments across the country. “I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation. . . .”
Mayor Quan then rambles about how she “spoke with protestors in my city” who professed an interest in “separating from anarchists,” implying that her police action was helping this somehow.
Interestingly, Quan then essentially advocates that occupiers move to private spaces, and specifically cites Zuccotti Park as an example:
In New York City, it’s interesting that the Wall Street movement is actually on a private park, so they’re not, again, in the public domain, and they’re not infringing on the public’s right to use a public park.
Many witnesses to the wave of government crackdowns on numerous #occupy encampments have been wondering aloud if the rapid succession was more than a coincidence; Jean Quan’s casual remark seems to clearly imply that it was.
Might it also be more than a coincidence that this succession of police raids started after President Obama left the US for an extended tour of the Pacific Rim?
As I walked down to Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square in the predawn hours of October 14, I could hear “the people’s mic” and the people’s resounding cheers over three blocks away. . . but the biggest cheer came soon after I wedged my way into the park. . . .
[A day outside has eaten my writing time, and my sleeping time, so please bear with my mostly vocal conversation today.]
Oh, and in case you are jonesing for more nuclear news, the NRC finally got around to posting the video and transcript to the outreach sessions from last week that I wrote about earlier. The “pro” nuclear video was up last Friday, but the concerned citizens panel was just posted this morning, eight days after the event. (And they don’t make it easy. I have no direct link; you have to go to the “Spotlight” section on the left side of the NRC homepage. Warning, the link there will open a Silverlight player and auto-download a PDF.)