Fifteen hours after Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the police to clear the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park, a state Supreme Court judge ruled against the movement and in favor of the city, denying a motion to allow the activist to return to the park with their belongings.
After the ruling on Nov. 15, police officers reopened Zuccotti Park shortly before 6:00 p.m. Well over a thousand of people flooded the square for their first general assembly since the eviction. As the activists entered the park, the police checked their bags and prevented those with large back packs, tents or camping gear from entering the space.
Attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild attorneys had obtained a temporary restraining order against the city directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises. In court later that day, they argued that the city and the owners of Zuccotti Park impinged on their clients’ First Amendment protections.
During the hearing that lasted just under an hour and a half, judge Michael D. Stallmanwrote in his ruling, “The court is mindful of movants’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and peaceable assembly,” but added, quoting from a precedent, “Even protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times,” the New York Times reported.
Mayor Bloomberg defended the arrests, “make no mistake the final decision to act was mine and mine alone,” he said at a news conference. “There is no ambiguity in the law here, the First Amendment protects speech is does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space, “he added. “Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
Pre-dawn Arrests at Zuccotti Park
Over the past several weeks, Bloomberg made clear that he had grown weary of the occupation, which began on Sept. 17, citing an incident of sexual assault and the injury of an EMS worker at the park. As police shut down occupations in other cities, including Portland, Salt Lake City and Oakland, the original occupation in New York City appeared safe from closure after the city backed down on its attempt to clear it on Oct. 14.
In a statement, the mayor said he was concerned that the occupation posed a “health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community.”
As early as 1:02 a.m. on Nov. 15., Occupy Wall Street activist blasted out a mass text message stating that hundreds of police officers had mobilized and an eviction was in process. By 2:00 a.m, police dressed in riot gear had cleared the park, arresting about 150 people, including City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, reported CBS News.
Sanitation crews lined up alongside the park, preparing to load the occupiers’ items into garbage trucks, reported the Daily News. Police drove bulldozers up to the edge of the park, and deployed a sound cannon — the less-lethal weapon known as L.R.A.D., as seen in this photograph taken from Twitter and reported by RT News.
Police officers also prevented journalists from entering the park in what may have been an attempt to reduce the number of videos and photographs of the raid, reported the New York Times.
Luc Baillargeon, 29, a former Marine and former firefighter who had been working in the park as a medic, said police used chainsaws to dismantle Occupy Wall Street’s free-medical tent. “They took all of our supplies,” Baillargeon added. “Two people had asthma attacks this morning and we didn’t have our inhalers so we couldn’t treat them.”
Librarians for the Occupy Wall Street library tweeted that the police had discarded their collection of 5,000 donated books. It was later determined that the books weren’t destroyed, but had been confiscated by the Sanitation Department and will be returned to the protesters, reported Gothamist.
At around 7 a.m., the group quickly relocated to an open plaza at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue to figure out their next move. At Zuccotti Park, other protesters attempted to knock down police barricades and reclaim the space, reported the Daily News.
New Yorkers who passed by the park on their way to work expressed mixed feelings over the raid, ranging from ecstatic cheers to bitter sighs, according to protesters who spoke toMetroFocus and the New York Times.
An Eviction Plan Was in the Works…
At a press conference at 7:30 a.m., NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters, “We have had contingency plans to address the situation in the park for quite a while.” But Bloomberg chimed in, claiming that despite pressure from Brookfield Properties — the park’s owners — and residents of Lower Manhattan, the decision to clear the park was his alone.
Asked why he decided to raid the park after nearly two months, Bloomberg defended his decision, saying, “New York City is the city you can come to express yourself. It’s our history,” and added, “it [the park] had developed into a situation that prohibited people from doing that.”
In a written statement, Bloomberg said that protesters would be allowed to return to the park after it’s been cleaned, but they would not be allowed to bring tents and continue sleeping there.
A reporter for NPR, and another for the The East Village Local, were arrested, reported the Huffington Post. The Guardian reported that two reporters from the Associated Press and two reporters for DNAinfo were also arrested. Additionally, a video shows a reporter for the Daily News being arrested.