My Night Trying to Save Liberty Plaza: Firsthand Account of NYPD's Eviction of OWS
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Both occupiers and police exhibited internal differences in tactical preferences. While some cops shoved people across the street and down on the ground with their hands, others swung their batons on the heads and backs of demonstrators. Others were defiantly peaceful.
Several times throughout the march, police sprinted down the street to clear people out of the vacant roads (it was 3am). One cop walked slowly behind, joking with demonstrators that he wasn't like the other cops. Another cop pushed me up onto the sidewalk, but when I told him I was trying to get up there but had nowhere to go, he immediately apologized, and then apologized again, and seemed to feel bad. Another cop yelled angrily to another cop, "Let them cross the street!!" and started to pull people out of an intersection.
The demonstrators went from clusters around the park to moving clusters all over the village and downtown, where we paced, often aimlessly, for hours, not wanting to give up, but without a solid plan or destination. Some people shouted to go to Washington Square; others said Union Square; back to Foley Square; Broadway and Pine. Some demonstrators threw trash into the street; others hurried to pick it up. By 5am, our group had been wandering for hours and had shrunk from a couple hundred people to about 30. The cops even stopped marching alongside us. They sped away in their vans.
A bicycle messenger visited us several times to help guide our small group. There were reports of groups all over. When we finally made it to Foley Square, where another group had already converged, the peace and organization was a burst of relief. There were human mics and process. Proposals were suggested -- to find homes for the evicted, to support arrestees walking around One Liberty Plaza, to take Zuccotti, to wait for the unions expected to join.
The crowd came to consensus to stay in Foley Square and invite others to join us there. We became the new, temporary base. Not everyone was happy about that. Some had higher expectations for a commitment to Liberty Plaza, and they felt that those who remained in the park had been abandoned. One occupier interrupted process and the GA to shout that people at the GA were not occupiers with the same respect for, or stake in, what had happened in Zuccotti. "Who else had their homes taken?" he asked. I felt for him. As far as they knew, everything they had was gone.
But there were moments of solidarity as well. Bagels, bananas and water arrived. Two NYPD buses full of arrestees drove by, and we greeted them with cheers and waves, as they pressed their faces to the glass and smiled back. Another march joined us from Zuccotti, and we welcomed our brothers and sisters.
And while disagreement over issues and action continued, familiarity with consensus assisted the stressed-out, sleep-deprived demonstrators in deciding to act with careful planning. We waited, we tweeted, we communicated, and crowds gathered. By 7am, Foley Square was buzzing. An inspiring demonstrator lifted an American flag, tied onto sticks, that he said was the last item left at Zuccotti Park. By 8am, we were marching to Canal and Broadway, where an impromptu camp showed that the occupiers were never sleeping. They did not give up; they cannot be dispersed. All physical separations are only temporary, and the cops cannot penetrate the mind. Bloomberg cannot evict a movement, even if he is a third-term mayor of the 1 percent with a girlfriend on the board at Brookfield.