This is normally Kevin’s turf, but night owl that I am, I happened to be awake last night when Bloomberg’s cops cleared Zuccotti Park, arresting over 150 protesters who refused to leave, throwing their belongings in a dumpster, and preventing press from covering the event. The arrests included a New York Times writer, and a city councilman, who suffered injuries.
The Brooklyn Bridge and almost all subway trains leading to Wall Street were closed over night. Counter-terrorism agents were on the scene. An LRAD sonic cannon was used. The NYPD blocked the airspace over the park to news helicopters. One journalist told a cop that she was press, and was told back, “Not tonight.” Even residential buildings around Zuccotti were locked down. This was real police state stuff.
I know that the First Amendment comes with that addendum, “Operative 6am-11pm M-F,” but absolutely nothing about this raid seems justified. Michael Bloomberg’s statement boils down to the idea that he needed to protect the public safety and health of the protesters by dragging them out of Zuccotti Park by their face and throwing away their possessions under cover of darkness. If you want a take only a frightened bridge-and-tunnel type would love, check the New York Post.
Fortunately, there’s still a (nominally) independent judiciary in America, and they have begun to act.
A New York judge on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order allowing protesters to return to Zuccotti Park only hours after police forcibly removed them, arresting dozens.
The order by Justice Lucy Billings set a hearing date for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. and said that until the matter was considered at that hearing, the city and Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, would be prohibited from evicting protesters or “enforcing ‘rules’ published after the occupation began or otherwise preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents and other property previously utilized.”
There are apparently a few dozen protesters already back in the park.
If Michael Bloomberg wanted to snuff out the Occupy protests, he couldn’t have picked a worse tactic than to perform a night raid in this fashion. The level of protest activity has probably gone up three-fold this morning. The November 17 day of action will be bigger as a result. And the square will eventually be occupied again.
If Zuccotti fizzled out on its own, if the arguments between various factions eventually alienated the participants, that would not be a threat to Bloomberg and his 1% society. Now, the protesters have earned another round of sympathy and support, Bloomberg looks like the autocrat that he is, and just like in the past, any effort to knuckle down on the protests will only bring them back stronger.
And there are indications that this was perhaps coordinated across the country, so the same dynamic will rule in Oakland and Denver and Portland and elsewhere. And those public officials who don’t want to participate in police state repression will choose to resign, like Oakland’s deputy mayor.
UPDATE: Here’s the order, which is really only effective until a hearing today at 11:30am.