J11: Zuccotti Re-Occupation Stirs Nostalgia for Last Fall
Last night, after dozens of activists completed a 99-mile march (symbolizing the plight of the 99%) from Philadelphia to New York, a "Guitarmy" rally in celebration of Woody Guthrie landed in Zuccotti Park. By the afternoon, 200 people had "reoccupied" what once was Liberty Plaza. There were arrests and injuries earlier in the day, and by the early evening -- when I arrived -- the police appeared to gearing up for a scaled-down, November-style eviction.
The mood last night might best be explained as nostalgic. Throughout the night, comparisons to last Fall -- including the violent eviction -- were rampant. It was a celebration of solidarity, but it was also a grim reminder of the NYPD's reaction to the movement, and the way that violence plays out in our psyches.
The NYPD first entered the park with strong aggression as a mass of cops cascaded down the park steps. First, they targeted 56-year-old grandmother of five Marsha Spencer. She was surrounded by dozens of men with guns, who were demanding she stop sitting in the chair where she had been knitting. Police told Spencer she could not sit in the chair she had brought to better-support her back, so she folded it up and put it in her cart, agreeing to leave on the condition that the NYPD would explain the rule forbidding chairs. When they started touching her belongings, Spencer told police "that's private property." "And then they grabbed me," Spencer told AlterNet, recovering from an apparent panic attack, " and I kind of blanked out at that point. I'm still shaking, because I didn't know what would happen to me. There were so many people around me, there was nowhere to go, and I was trapped. They completely surrounded us. And then they stole my chair."
As the police put their hands on her, I could only imagine what might be going through her head; would she be struck by a baton? Mased? The violence that rogue police inflict at Occupy events is often shocking. Being a target must be a sick feeling.
Immediately after Spencer was removed from the situation -- trembling, with her head down -- a young man went down. An officer threw him to the ground in a headlock, then stood on his knee, as they cuffed him on the cement. He was face-down on top of her chair.
The crowd was livid, tending to Spencer, but yelling at the police. As a group of women took her side, they stroked her arms and comforted her, bringing her water and keeping the police at bay. One woman looked on at the NYPD approaching and said, "What if someone did that to your mother? How would you feel?" As the incident transpired, I couldn't help but think of my parents and grandparents. And still, the solidarity demonstrators showed for Spencer was a light after darkness.
A couple hours later, a young female began having a panic attack in the park. It is unclear what sparked the attack, though the intimidation tactics of the police are surely startling. Even as she struggled to breathe normally, a TARU officer eerily filmed a medic offering her care.
The rest of the night in Zuccotti was more of the same from the old days. The police arrested a live-streamer. Security guards told random occupiers that their backpacks were too large to be allowed in the park. Meditation circles "ohm"-ed the cops away; chants brought them back in.
At the end of the night, the success or failure of the action was unclear, and to be blunt, unimportant. For many people there, last night was a reminder of what they had in Liberty Plaza, what they are up against, and how badly they miss the fight. Some people say Occupy is over, and perhaps it is. But what last night made clear is that people are still yearning to unite in revolt.