OWS Protesters Want Back In After Police Raid, Clear Out Zuccotti Park


zuccotti-park-occupy-wall-street-protestA judge is expected to issue a ruling soon on the fate of the Occupy Wall Street encampment. Protesters are demanding to be let back in to Zuccotti Park after police raided it overnight, clearing out demonstrators who have been camped there for nearly two months.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said protesters were evicted from the park because “the safety and health conditions became intolerable.”

In a statement released Tuesday, the owners of the park, Brookfield Properties, said it too wanted the park cleared because it “had become dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe.”

“In our view, these risks were unacceptable and it would have been irresponsible to not request that the City take action,” Brookfield said.

“Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,” Bloomberg said.

About 1,000 officers in riot gear moved in around 1 a.m. Tuesday after warning demonstrators to clear out.

The mission of the officers: To clean up the park. Officers scoured through tents, cardboard boxes and bags of trash, cleaning out the area.

“All property including tents and personal belongings must be removed from the park immediately,” announced police as the raid began.

Once officers evicted the protesters, sanitation workers began to clear the park of the tents and other items left behind.

“If you refuse to immediately remove your property from the park or refuse to leave the park, you’ll be subject to arrest,” police said.

“This action was taken at this time of day to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood,” Bloomberg said. “Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”

On the ground, one protestor streamed live video of police piling up everything left behind in the park.

Most of the demonstrators left peacefully, but others did not. One group of protesters tied themselves with rope to a nearby tree.

“We’re peacefully protesting and were exercising our First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” said one demonstrator. “Look at how they’re treating us. They’re treating us like were some sort of violent people.”

Bloomberg said around 200 people were arrested. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said about 142 of those arrested were in the park and another 50 or 60 were in the streets nearby.

Kelly also said officers “showed an awful lot of restraint” during the raid and said police gave protesters 45 minutes to gather their belongings and leave before entering the park.

He said demonstrators were given until 3:30 a.m. to leave voluntarily before officers began making arrests.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said Zuccotti Park was completely cleared by 4:30 a.m.

Bloomberg said protesters would be allowed to return to the park, but will not be allowed to use tents, sleeping bags and tarps.

“The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else,” Bloomberg said.

But lawyers for the protesters won an injunction Tuesday morning that allowed them to re-enter the park with their gear.

Bloomberg said he has no intention of preventing the Occupy movement from continuing, but the city is fighting that injunction to prevent the protestors from turning the park back into their camp.

He said the park will remain closed while the city goes to court to clarify and fight the order.

But not all city lawmakers are on the same page. Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) issued a statement Tuesday morning about the raid.

“Given the NYPD’s sneaky tactics early on, I am not surprised by the NYPD’s efforts to use the cloak of night as a shield for their brazen violation of the First Amendment. I expected this would happen; I just did not know when. This violent raid of Zuccotti Park was clearly a coordinated effort to subvert a peaceful protest at Occupy Wall Street,” Williams said.

New York StateSen. Liz Krueger also issued a statement.

“I am very disturbed that the City’s approach to dealing with the ‘health and fire safety’ issues raised by the Zuccotti protest was a surprise ambush in the middle of the night,” Krueger said. “Physically forcing people out of the park or leaving them to face arrest, with no notice or warning, is not a commitment to civil rights and it certainly was not the right way to handle this situation.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union also condemned the raid.

“The eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park was not about public health. Rousting hundreds of peaceful protesters from their tents in the dead of night amid a media blackout doesn’t promote public safety – it endangers it,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.

The city says the tents, blankets and other items left behind will not be thrown away. Instead, they are being sent to the Department of Sanitation garage on the west side.

But some protesters already trying to claim their property say they weren’t given enough warning.

To claim an item left behind, you’ll have to show your ID and identify your property. The city will hold it for 48 hours to make sure no one else claims the piece of property before returning it.

After the early morning eviction, protesters fanned out across Lower Manhattan, convening in Foley Square and Duarte Square and in front of City Hall.

They have also said they will march to Central Park and have threatened to shut down several subway lines.

The continuing demonstration had become a source of tension between area residents and business owners in the immediate area and those encamped in Zuccotti Park. Bloomberg was under constant pressure from residents to do something about the noise and reports of unsanitary conditions, in addition to the negative impact the demonstrations were having on local businesses.

Residents from the neighborhood around Zuccotti Park marched Monday City Hall to voice their displeasure about the encampment and the protest.

{CBS New York/Matzav.com Newscenter}