Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Court Battle Over Liberty Plaza

Beginning around 1am on Tuesday, November 15, New York City police raided Liberty Plaza, a.k.a Zuccotti Park, confiscating protesters' belongings and ordering them to leave. Those who stayed were arrested, along with several reporters covering the story. At an 8am press conference, Mayor Bloomberg said the raid had been in response to health and safety concerns associated with the camp. By the time he spoke, protest organizers had already filed an injunction against the city's action, and were waiting for a judge to rule on the case.

Some of the protesters went a few blocs away to Foley Square. Others travelled further to a lot at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Canal Street, but were soon cleared out by police. By the time I visited Liberty Plaza around 1pm, they had returned and were massed around the edges of the park, which was now blocked off by metal police barriers.

The eviction had created a strange inversion; before the park was full of protesters and ringed by police, now it was full of sparse groups of police and ringed by crowds of protesters, with another perimeter of police, some in riot gear, standing beyond them. There was a steady stream of bystanders staring as they passed, tourists on the west side of the park near the hotels and Ground Zero, office workers running the gauntlet between cops and protesters along Broadway on the east. A long line of TV news vans was stationed along the south side of the park and around the corner for more than a block south down Trinity Place.

Some people milled around with belongings from the encampment, like the woman in a knit ski hat who was pushing a shopping cart piled with a suitcase, a giant cardboard box and a couple of handbags. Others slept along the sidewalk. A man and woman sat along the west side of the park with a giant Statue of Liberty puppet, the paper mache head lying on the sidewalk detached from the cloth-draped body. A tired-looking young blond guy was sitting near the curb panhandling for money to get to the protest in Washington D.C. A cardboard sign propped up next to him said, "Lost everything: Medication, wallet, money, identification, dog food." A small black pit bull puppy was curled up on a sweatshirt behind him.

A couple of grey-haired men in glasses circled the park with a procession of a few other people, accompanying "We Shall Not Be Moved" on an accordion and a sticker-covered guitar. Two younger, bearded men were playing a ukulele and a tambourine. Nearby, a guy in a black sweatshirt and straw hat was was leaning against the barricades, reading a newspaper and stopping to yell about the police every couple minutes.