Occupy Wall Street: People Power vs. the Police State
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That stationary camera is, however, apparently not sufficient for the NYPD’s surveillance needs. Not 10 feet from the NYPD camera sign sits an unmarked white truck with a 15-foot, camera-topped pole sticking out of its roof. Only its license plate brands it as the property of the police department.
One block down, at the foot of the park on the corner of Liberty and Cedar Streets, an NYPD sky watch tower -- a Panopticon-like structure outfitted with black-tinted windows, a spotlight, sensors, and multiple cameras (originally used by hunters to shoot quarry from overhead and now also used by the Department of Homeland Security along the Mexican border)provides further overwatch.
The Beginning of the End? Or a New Beginning?
Later in the day, I took a second inventory of the police presence ringing the park.As I walked the plaza perimeter I saw that the run-of-the-mill beat cops in blue and their white-shirted superiors had been joined by members of NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU), the outfit that films protests, suit-wearing plainclothes detectives, sore-thumb plainclothesmen (middle-aged white men, wearing out-of-fashion jeans and white sneakers who just happen to loiter on the edges of protests) and even a uniformed member of the Disorder Control Unit -- the special cadre tasked with suppressing riots. In all, the NYPD’s numbers had increased to 42 police on the immediate periphery of the park (not counting who knows how many undercover officers), but just about all the policing any of them actually did was hassle reporters and daytrippers, telling them to keep moving and stand in the park, not on the sidewalk if they wanted to gawk, talk or text -- precisely what most of the cops were doing at one point or another themselves.
On Wednesday night, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Zuccotti Park would be closed for cleaning at 7am Friday and scrubbed down in a four-step process, one quadrant at a time. “After it’s cleaned, they’ll be able to come back,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said of the protesters later. “But they won’t be able to bring back the gear. The sleeping bags, that sort of thing, will not be able to be brought back into the park.”
During an emergency General Assembly at Liberty Plaza to deal with the city’s plans, one activist had an answer for Bloomberg and Kelly. "We see this as a pretext to shut the occupation down,” he told the crowd. "They will not foreclose our home! This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic. We won't allow them to come in!"
At dawn, the apathy of napping, texting police officers may be replaced by an aggressive attempt by the city to take back the park. They have the numbers and the equipment and more is certainly on the way. The protesters are, however, confident and defiant -- vowing to link arms and non-violently resist the police.
More than one Occupy Wall Street protester said today that a police crackdown would strengthen the movement, and in its short history, heavy-handed police tactics have galvanized the most support for the new society taking shape in Liberty Plaza. “Get up, get down, there’s revolution in this town,” protesters chanted as sirens wailed during their emergency assembly.
Tomorrow may be the most salient test yet of the young movement’s people power in the face of police-state tactics. The NYPD has overwhelming force, but right now, Occupy Wall Street still holds the park and is still building, they shouted in unison today, “The society that we envision for the world!”