Liberty Plaza Re-Occupied for 6-Month Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street; Police Violently Raid

 It was a beautiful scene in Zuccotti Park--clearly Liberty Plaza again--on Saturday night around 11:00. Giant banners unfurled along the edges, declaring that Occupy Wall Street was back in town. 

The only tent in sight, besides a makeshift one already torn down once by about eight police officers as protesters went to check out a bagpipe procession heading up Cedar Street, was a small illuminated one held aloft on a stick with the words "You can't evict an idea" painted on its side. 

(The bagpipers, unconnected to Occupy, were quickly shut down by the police.) 

Within the park, occupiers who hadn't seen one another in months hugged and exchanged stories of what they'd been working on outside of the space. I ran into AlterNet contributors Manissa McCleave Maharawal, J.A. Myerson, Laurie Penny, artist Molly Crabapple, Dissentmagazine's Sarah Leonard, and many other friends and acquaintances who've been immersed in Occupy as participants or journalists for months, and we all remarked on how joyous it was; how nice it was simply to be back, as the weather warmed, how big the spring was likely to be. 

My friends and I walked up Broadway toward the subway, as more police officers slowly filled in the perimeter of the park. I commented, "I just want to get out while it's still beautiful, before they stomp on someone again." 

Earlier that day, on our first visit to the 6th anniversary re-occupation party, we'd moved calmly through the park, borrowed a typewriter from the "Direct Action Flaneurs", who had a stack of them that visitors could use to record their impressions of the mostly re-occupied park, and simply absorbed the scene, taking pictures, chatting with friends and strangers, decompressing after a morning at Left Forum, just a few blocks away, where Occupy tactics and other subjects were being hotly debated. In contrast to the violent Communist revolution being pushed on us by some participants, Occupy was blissfully mellow, even with the drum circle. 

As we made our way around the edge of the park and out, we passed a young man standing up on the planters, his face painted bright colors, clutching what I was told later was a Bible, ramrod-straight, holding a salute as police tried to bully him down. 

 When the police backed down, he led the chant of "Whose park? OUR PARK!" 

But as we walked up Broadway, a noise made us turn--just in time to see the same young man fall to the ground, curl into a ball, and to see a police officer raise his foot and stomp on him. The police quickly surrounded him, and livestreamers, photographers, and onlookers shouting "Shame" quickly surrounded the police, who dragged him to his feet and loaded him into a waiting van. Others told us that the young man was a Marine. 

So when I reached my apartment that night, it wasn't exactly shocking to hear that the police had charged back into the park, arresting many. Gregg Levine reports that some occupiers remained, linking arms, in the park when the police declared it needed to be closed (some reported that they heard it was for "cleaning", though that's unverified). Twitter reports a broken jaw and a broken thumb among the injuries suffered as the cops charged in. 

Levine reports on one particularly horrifying arrest: 


One woman, wearing a bright yellow shirt, was moved forcibly onto the bus, only to be moved off of it minutes later. The woman was jerking wildly and appeared to be having a seizure. She fell or was forced to the ground within feet of leaving the bus. Some close to the scene said they saw police holding her down with knees on her torso.

Members of the crowd shouted at cops to get her medical attention. Nothing happened immediately; it was about 20 or 30 minutes later that a Fire Department EMT and ambulance arrived on the scene.

 (More, with video, at his site.)

As the park was cleared, a march left to Union Square--around 300, according to Biola Jeje, a student activist and long-time Occupier. But being outside of Zuccotti Park, singing "We Shall Overcome" didn't keep them safe either. Around 10th St, Jeje said, the arrests and the police violence began again--and video shows a protester's head being slammed into and breaking a glass window. (Almost funny, after all the debates of the politics of breaking windows.) 

Watch a clip of the march (arrests begin at about 3:40).

Video streaming by Ustream

Among those arrested, according to reports, were AlterNet contributors Nelini Stamp and Yotam Marom. We'll update this when we hear from them. 

The police overreaction might not have had the effect they wanted, though--the spirit of defiance was alive and well yesterday and last night in the park and on the 'Net. Jeje told AlterNet after the night's actions, "We now don't need panels to question when will we see the resurgence of occupy. I felt a lot of the spirit of last fall in the air last night and i think people are sure now that this is not going anywhere for a while." 

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at March 18, 2012, 2:26am

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