Occupy Wall Street cleared from Zuccotti Park
The eviction began in the dead of night, as police officers arrived by the hundreds and set up powerful klieg lights to illuminate the block.
Officers handed out notices from Brookfield Office Properties, the park's owner, and the city saying that the plaza had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous.
A commander announced over a bullhorn that everyone had to leave. Many did, carrying their belongings with them. Others tried to make a stand, even chaining themselves together with bicycle locks.
In contrast to the scene weeks ago in Oakland, where a similar eviction turned chaotic and violent, the police action was comparatively orderly. But it wasn't entirely bloodless.
"The cops hit my legs with a baton," said demonstrator Max Luisdaniel Santos, 31, an unemployed construction worker, pulling up his pants to show some swollen scars on his calf. "Then they shoved my face into the ground."
"I was bleeding profusely. They shoved a lot of people's faces into the ground," Santos said as he stood near the park Tuesday morning, looking shaken. He said he lost his shoes in the scuffle, but wasn't arrested.
One person was taken to a hospital for evaluation because of breathing problems.
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been supportive of the Occupy movement, was among those arrested outside of the park. Kelly, the police commissioner, said he was trying to get through police lines to reach the protesters.
Protesters were able to grab about $2,500 in cash that was at the plaza before police kicked them out, said Pete Dutro, who is in charge of the New York City movement's finances.
"We got all the dough," Dutro said. "It's on my person."
Bloomberg said the evacuation was conducted in the middle of the night "to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood."
"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day," Bloomberg said. "Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else."
He said the city would contest the motion filed by the National Lawyers Guild, a civil rights organization that has been representing arrested protesters.
Concerns about health and safety issues at Occupy Wall Street camps around the country have intensified, and protesters in several cities have been ordered to take down their shelters, adhere to curfews and relocate so that parks can be cleaned.
The surprise ouster at Zuccotti Park came as the movement was at its most vulnerable. A rift had been growing in recent weeks between the park's full-time residents and the movement's power players, most of whom no longer lived in the park.
The protesters who actually made things happen - the ones who planned marches and rallies and set plans into motion - held meetings in donated office space high above the park, in skyscrapers just like the ones housing the bankers they were protesting.
Some residents of Zuccotti Park have been grumbling about the recent formation of a "spokescouncil," an upper echelon of organizers who held meetings at a high school near police headquarters. Some protesters felt that the selection of any leaders whatsoever wasn't true to Occupy Wall Street's original anti-government spirit: That no single person is more important or more powerful than another person.
But other protesters felt that Occupy Wall Street needed to be bigger than Zuccotti Park - that they had, in a sense, outgrown it.
Occupy encampments have come under fire around the country and even overseas as local officials and residents have complained about possible health hazards and ongoing inhabitation of parks and other public spaces.
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