My Night Trying to Save Liberty Plaza: Firsthand Account of NYPD's Eviction of OWS
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
I walked up to Liberty Plaza at 1:30 Tuesday morning to find out I was too late. The barricades were up; the police were everywhere. We couldn't even get close enough to see inside the park.
People were pissed. They were blindsided -- separated from their friends, their homes, their families. Occupy Wall Street runs on camaraderie, on solidarity. And when your supporters are facing an unknown fate in the park that has become the base for a global movement, separation is tough.
And yet, the demonstrators stood strong as their hard work, all their infrastructure -- the people's library, the kitchen, the tents, media, medical--was destroyed.
I had not been there long at all, maybe 10 minutes, when all of a sudden I was slammed up against a building on Cortlandt St., at the corner of Broadway. I looked up, and it was the cops. They were pushing the guys in front of me, crushing several of us against a building as they shouted at us to move back. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge gust of pepper-spray jet past my head. Luckily, I didn't get hit, at least hard. My mouth tasted like acetone as my eyes and face started to burn, just enough to make me livid. I was spitting that shit out for hours.
Swarms of riot police, protecting themselves behind shields as they swung their long nightsticks, managed to separate us. They beat people for being in the street, shoved us on sidewalks, and then pepper-sprayed and beat us more when we could not physically fit in the sidewalk space they demanded we occupy instead of the park. They shoved us down the street, then came up in front of us and pushed us back, forcing us into several clusters. Divide and conquer. They did it over and over again. It was frustrating as hell, but there were moments of inspiration. As we stood on Broadway and Dey St., a homeless veteran shouted to the police "You know I'm here, I'm homeless, because I'm a veteran. Because of the government. I lost everything. Are you happy?"
Police vans and fire trucks sped by.
As the crowd around Zuccotti shrank and I realized nobody was getting anywhere near the park, I decided to meet up with a march that had headed toward City Hall. I had no idea how big it had become until I arrived. Communication was complicated.
Still, I wanted to get to City Hall quick. I had a feeling I was missing out. I hopped in a cab to realize I had three dollars in my pocket and couldn't find my debit card. That cab driver turned out to be the first of two to offer me a free, or nearly free, ride. I gave him three bucks and he took me to City Hall, where a much larger, or perhaps more centralized, group had convened. Dozens of police cars, their lights flashing, were lined up the hill on Pearl St. It was psychedelic, like watching a film.
Hundreds of demonstrators were peacefully assembled around the statue, discussing whether or not to march immediately or wait for more occupiers to come. Quickly, they decided to go. As we walked away, I noticed the street at Centre and Worth was full of fog. Demonstrators said someone had lit a fire, and the cops responded with tear gas. I don't know for sure if either is true.
At first, we marched from City Hall as a large mass, intermittently taking the streets and returning to the sidewalks as police swarmed and arrested. The cops' rules kept changing. In standard NYPD Occupy procedure, the police told us to obey traffic laws and wait until we had a walk light to cross the street at an intersection where our brothers and sisters had already crossed. Then they immediately decided that the street was closed and we could not cross at all.