About an hour ago, news broke that the police began a surprise sweep of Zuccotti Park to destroy the Occupy Wall Street encampment. According to NBC News, “hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear, descended on Zuccotti Park after midnight Tuesday in a surprise sweep of the Occupy Wall Street headquarters.” The raid, only days before a two-month anniversary march in New York City for the 99 Percent Movement, was justified by police because of what they said were health and fire hazards.
A livestream of the events has cut in and out, showing a confused scene of protesters huddling and debating what to do. ThinkProgress captured part of the video, which reveals a frantic scene of Occupy Wall Street protesters calling for people to stay calm. View it here:
Other news reports claim that mayors in several large cities have discussed clearing Occupy Wall Street solidarity encampments in a coordinated fashion.
According to the BBC, Mayor Bloomberg’s office “said on Twitter that the protesters should ‘temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps’ but could return once the park was clear.” Several protesters have claimed that police are systematically destroying any personal property found in Zuccotti Park. Bloomberg has expressed disdain for the movement, and has sought ways to remove the protesters from the park in past weeks.
There are conflicting reports about what exactly is going on at the park. There are some reports that police are using excessive force. Writer Melissa Gira Grant tweeted: “Reporter on WBAI asking officer why he can’t observe, cites NY state law permitting journalists w/ 3 feet distance. Was pushed by cop.”
As policy destroy the public library constructed by the Occupy Wall Street encampment, protesters chant: “We are the 99%!”
A second livestream went up, but the cameraman could not get into Zuccotti Park. Police are surrounding and blocking the roads leading to the Occupy Wall Street encampment. The man narrating the livestream showed police destroying tents, then a mass of protesters marching towards the Wall Street bull statue on Broadway. View it here:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the official campaign committee of Senate Republicans, is already hailing the midnight raid of peaceful protesters and trying to use it to smear Democrats.
A judge has ruled that Bloomberg cannot lawfully evict protesters from Zuccotti Park and has issued a temporary restraining order against New York City. The order allows the protesters to return to the park until after a hearing on the matter today at 11:30 a.m. In a news conference, Bloomberg said it was his intention to open the park at 8 a.m. this morning but that, as a result of the restraining order (and contravening it), he will keep the park closed until the hearing. The mayor said he had not seen the restraining order, but was aware that one had been issued:
BLOOMBERG: We are now ready to re-open the park, but understand that there is a court order which we have not yet actually received enjoining us from enforcing Brookfield’s rules and so the park will remain closed until we can clarify that situation.
During the question and answer period, Bloomberg added, “It’s our considered judgement that the best course of action is to leave it closed” in the event that “the judge changes her mind.”