It was a potentially devastating setback. If crowds of demonstrators return to Zuccotti Park, they will not be allowed to bring tents, sleeping bags and other equipment that turned the area into a makeshift city of dissent.
But demonstrators pledged to carry on with their message protesting corporate greed and economic inequality, either in Zuccotti or a yet-to-be chosen new home.
“This is much bigger than a square plaza in downtown Manhattan,” said Hans Shan, an organizer who was working with churches to find places for protesters to sleep. “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.”
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman upheld the city’s eviction of the protesters after an emergency appeal by the National Lawyers Guild.
The protesters have been camped out in the privately owned park since mid-September. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he ordered the sweep because health and safety conditions and become “intolerable” in the crowded plaza. The raid was conducted in the middle of the night “to reduce the risk of confrontation” and “to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood,” he said.
By early Tuesday evening, some protesters were being allowed back into the park two by two. But they could each take only a small bag.
Later Tuesday, the protesters held a general assembly where they discussed topics including where and how to retrieve their belongings that had been swooped up in the raid and options for going forward, including appealing the judge’s decision.
Still, some protesters believed the loss of Zuccotti Park may be an opportunity to broaden and decentralize the protest to give it staying power.
The manner in which police departments across the country have reacted to these protesters and the camps that they have built on private and public land have played a major role in defining the Occupy movement. As Heather Gautney explained
Over the past few weeks, increasingly irritated and trigger-happy local officials have received glimpses of “people power” as they’ve amped up efforts to clear Occupy camps around the country, including New York’s Zuccotti Park on Monday night. But if history tells us anything, it’s that unwieldy, nonviolent and relatively modest movements can actually take down giants—and that implements of force are no match for the collective will of the people.
Such acts of police aggression are fast becoming the shame of our nation. Intended to deter, they actually amplify the Occupy movement’s narrative of fighting domination and corruption.