NYPD raid Occupy Wall Street, evict OWS encampment after two months

Photo: C.S. Muncy

Hundreds of NYPD officers evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park before dawn this morning, ending the two-month demonstration. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the police eviction. NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg disputes the judge, and vows to fight to keep the park clear. Live udpates follow.

[10:20am ET] A group of several hundred protesters have been marching from City Hall back to Zuccotti Park, and they are now re-entering Zuccotti, cheering. Journalists/observers who are live-tweeting right now at #OWS on the march back into Zuccotti: @quinnnorton @katz @Newyorkist @joshharkinson @viewofadam @nancyscola @elliotjustin @samgf. Protestors have now reached the edge of park waving Judge Billings' order in the air, and are yelling, "We have a court order!". Those who push in are forcibly removed. People are jumping over police barriers, shouting, "This is our park!" ….And the barricade has been torn down. NYPD is filming demonstrators to identify them later.

[10:13am ET] Here's a snapshot of the temporary restraining order faxed to the mayor's office at 7:50am, just before the press conference during which he hadn't been served. Zuccotti remains closed, in violation of this order.

[10:11am ET] My Boing Boing colleague Cory Doctorow was on-site at Zuccotti just yesterday afternoon, visiting the OWS library and interviewing librarians. All 5,000 books and the library, the structure for which I'm told was paid for by rocker Patti Smith, have been destroyed.

[10:05am ET] For those just joining, here are links to other live-blogs with eyewitness accounts (I am updating from Los Angeles, far away indeed from Zuccotti.] Mother Jones, The Nation, The Guardian, The New York Times. MoJo's Josh Harkinson was inside the park even as police attempted to block all press from the site, his tweets from during the raid are collected here.

[959am ET] At 6:30AM ET, following a 1am police raid that kicked OWS protesters out of Zuccotti Park, Justice Lucy Billings issued an order effectively allowing protesters back in the park, with their tents, gear, and all. "ThinkProgress just spoke to one of the plantiff's attorneys, Gideon Orion Oliver, who confirmed that the order was served on Mayor Bloomberg and the other defendants via fax at 7:50AM." During his press conference at 8am, the mayor had claimed he hadn't yet been served, and said that this is why the administration was keeping the park closed. ThinkProgress: "As of this writing, Zuccotti Park remains closed to protesters in direct contradiction of Justice Billing's order."

[950am ET] The court hearing on continued use of Zuccotti Park by protesters, after last night's NYPD eviction, is scheduled to be heard by Judge Lucy Billings at 11:30am ET.

[945am ET] The photographer whose shots you see in this post, C.S. Muncy, tells Boing Boing what we're hearing from many other sources, confirmed by the mayor himself: the New York City police actively pushed press away during the raid. "Press was denied access very early on," says C.S., "I had to hop the barricade to get in. Most were kept blocks away. I saw no evidence of the LRAD ["sound cannon" rumored to be present, a kind of nonlethal sonic weapon and crowd control tool]. However, I did get a big whiff of mace."

[930am ET] @CBSNews tweeted during #OWS raid, "NYPD is trying to clear air space." CBS News was not allowed to fly its news helicopter over Zuccotti Park. As @NYCaviation noted last night, NYPD has no airspace authority. If the CBS News report was true, how is this legal?

Photo: C.S. Muncy

[9:30am ET] Live ABC News stream of Bloomberg's presser here, NYC stream here. There's a large crowd outside. Journalists to follow, who are there, include: @antderosa, @quinnorton, @jonswaine.

Bloomberg: "Our intention was to allow people to go in and protest, or peacefully enjoy the park. They will not be allowed to use tents or sleeping bags and will have to follow all park rules."

Bloomberg says Brookfield Properties, the owners of the park, asked for the city's help clearing the park. He cites need for cleanliness and safety within the park, as reason for the raid, as well as tents posing fire hazard. "Inaction was not an option." Says governor Mario Cuomo offered to send help, too. First Amendment does not give protesters a right to sleep in a park, put up tents in the park, or take over a public space, Bloomberg says— is this correct?

"Protesters have had two months to occupy the space with tents. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments." All of this is in the prepared statement his office released earlier, not much new.

Photo: C.S. Muncy

"There are allegations of people defecating in alleys," he says, but is unable to cite any evidence, and says his administration found no evidence. (wait, then why cite it?)

The mayor seems to be saying that #OWS would have been allowed back into Zuccotti park, but now they city of New York has a restraining order matter to contend with, given the judge's ruling. Unclear what's going to happen next. But he's saying protesters will not be allowed to bring tents, kitchen gear, and the like, "no big objects" allowed. Will go to court this morning to fight to sustain the eviction. About 200 were arrested in the raid, he says. [Commissioner Ray Kelly says later, outside courthouse, that 142 people were arrested inside the park, and about 50 or 60 at other sites.]

Why were so many working press banned, and physically blocked from the site by police?

"NYPD routinely keeps press off to the side to prevent the situation from getting worse," Bloomberg said. "It's to protect the press."

[ NYT's Brian Stelter says (Per @LindseyChrist) that the riot police didn't distinguish between media and protesters during the raid. "They took a Post reporter and threw him in a chokehold."]

Bloomberg says among those arrested there were no serious injuries, but some may have hurt themselves "when they banged themselves on the ground."

He refers to judge's temporary restraining order, which this administration plans to fight— "presuming it exists."

It does, and it bars the city from "evicting protesters" and "preventing protesters from re-entering with tents & other property."

[9:13am ET] On @theother99's Ustream, narrator is saying that a judge has ruled that Mayor Bloomberg's eviction was illegal, and that protesters are welcome back. "Belongings are gone and destroyed, my tent is gone, but Zuccotti will be ours."

And he's right. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order.

Photo: C.S. Muncy

From the NYT live-blog:

The order by Justice Lucy Billings set a hearing date for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. and said that until the matter was considered at that hearing, the city and Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, would be prohibited from evicting protesters or "enforcing 'rules' published after the occupation began or otherwise preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents and other property previously utilized."

[9:00am ET] Hundreds of New York City police officers cleared out Zuccotti Park before dawn this morning, "effectively ending the nearly two-month-old Occupy Wall Street occupation and destroying much of the occupiers' gear," reports eyewitness reporter Rosie Gray at the Village Voice. Coverage at the NYT is here.

At 5am PT/8am ET, Occupiers are headed to City Hall to disrupt NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg's press conference (watch here). Police are swarming on them as I type. The stream narrator: "Police are coming, looks like we're gonna see some action." The group then mic-checks, and asks the police why, if they're running a live video stream to broadcast the story, they are not allowed inside the press conference.

So: Why the raid, and why now?
"Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags," Bloomberg said. "Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments." More in the spoke to the New York Observer. "Make no mistake," Bloomberg said, "The final decision to act was mine."

There are widespread reports of credentialed press being physically blocked from access to the site by police. Rumors are also a-Twitter that police used chemical agents and an LRAD ("Sound Cannon, a sonic weapon) on protesters.

Quinn Norton of Wired was there throughout. At around 5am New York Time, the raid was complete. "The last bits of the occupy are being power washed off Zuccotti park," she tweets. " I've been ejected from Zuccotti."

Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson was present throughout. He tweets:

In certain ways, the eviction of #OWS could end up helping the movement. A lot of social problems and tensions have sprung up at Zuccotti. Occupiers were devoting tons of resources to fixing them.

The eviction allows #OWS to start fresh and, when it regroups, do it in a smarter way, learning from past mistakes
It also may galvanize public support for the huge November 17 day of convergence, turning out more numbers

Of course, eviction is a setback in other ways. But it's definitely not the end of the story.

Phone video of NYPD destroying the #OWS kitchen is here, with a POV from inside the tent.

Here's a timeline being RTd by various Occupys (I cannot independently verify the times and details shown at the time of this blog post, so caveat lector).