Standing up for Occupy Wall Street

November 15, 2011 reports on New York City's assault on Occupy Wall Street last night--and activists' plan to respond to this attack on free speech.

NEW YORK City police destroyed the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park in an early-morning surprise attack on November 15. Hundreds of people who were sleeping at the park found themselves surrounded by police with no warning, and then subject to arrest or the violence of the NYPD.

Many hundreds more responded when an emergency alert went out about the police attack. When they got to Lower Manhattan, they found the park ringed with cops equipped in riot gear, while other police rampaged through the camp, destroying whatever was left behind when the occupiers were evicted.

This was an outrageous and unprovoked attack on a peaceful protest--an attempt to squelch dissent because the 1 percent and those who serve them are threatened by the message of the Occupy movement against greed and corporate power. Now Occupy activists and all the people who have supported it need to use every means to mobilize--and stand up for our right to protest and demand a better life for the 99 percent.

New York City police march through Zuccotti Park destroying the encampment
New York City police march through Zuccotti Park destroying the encampment

CITY OFFICIALS used the same excuse this time as they did when they tried to evict the Occupy camp one month ago, in mid-October: cleaning. Occupy protesters showed the absurdity of that charge with their own cleanup that turned the renamed Freedom Plaza into probably the cleanest park in New York City.

But more important was the several thousand people, led by members of the city's biggest unions, who mobilized overnight when the announcement was made that police would move in the next morning. The cops found a park teeming with people determined to keep the Occupy protest going. The city was forced to retreat.

So this time, Bloomberg and his police moved in with no warning, hoping to accomplish what they failed to the last time under cover of darkness. contributor Jen Roesch describes the scene she found when she responded with many hundreds of people to the emergency alert.

Hundreds of riot cops had sealed off a two- to four-block radius around the park and ordered media to leave. When we arrived, we found subway stations accessing the area were shut down. Hundreds of people massed to the west, south and north of Zuccotti, but were greeted by lines of police in riot gear. I was standing next to a young woman whose friend was trapped in the park, and she was weeping--the riot cop in her face was sneering at her to "stop crying and go home, little girl."

As protesters chanted "This is a peaceful protest," the police very deliberately pushed into the crowd, driving hundreds of people further north. Several protesters, including City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, were beaten and pepper-sprayed while following police orders to retreat.

After an hour-long standoff with the police, hundreds of people marched north on Broadway to Foley Square, the site of the planned protest on November 17, in hopes of uniting with others who had come down to support the encampment. Throughout the early morning hours, hundreds of people continued to pour into Foley Square.

It will take more than a police attack on Zuccotti Park to stop the Occupy struggle. As the Occupy Wall Street website says, "You can't evict an idea whose time has come."

Among supporters of the movement, there is intense discussions about what to do next, so the picture of what's happening will change throughout the day.

OWS will hold two General Assemblies on November 15. The first is at 9 a.m. at Canal and Sixth Avenue--as this story was being written, as many as 2,000 people had turned out for the meeting. A second GA is set for 7 p.m. at Zuccotti Park, which Bloomberg has said will be reopened after the "cleaning," but with restrictions on anyone staying overnight or establishing an encampment.

Responding to an appeal by lawyers representing the Occupy movement, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the city's ban on protesters returning to Zuccotti Park with tents and other equipment to occupy it overnight. Despite this ban, the park remains barricaded.

On Thursday, a previously planned day of action, called by OWS in solidarity with some of the city's biggest unions and community organizations, will certainly draw even more people to raise their voices in protest.

Bloomberg and the 1 percent in New York City are trying to silence dissent. But the Occupy movement isn't going anywhere. We will raise our voices against repression and the greed and power of the 1 percent.

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