This morning, I watched lower Manhattan turn into a militarized lockdown. The park known as Liberty Square was cleared by force, though I arrived 20 minutes after the police barricades encircled a two-block radius, kicked out all media and prevented all foot traffic on public sidewalks surrounding the park.
This was expected. The emergency text message went out at 1:00 AM and read, “URGENT: Hundreds of police mobilizing around Zuccotti. Eviction in progress!” prompting a mass mobilization of people like me, part-time protesters who signed up to converge on the park for the looming police raid on the physical heart of the Occupy movement.
The police were prepared for this flood of bodies. Many subway stops were shut down, as was the Brooklyn Bridge. My go bag had been packed for weeks, waiting for just this moment. I laced up my boots, and spent an agonizing 20 minutes on the subway from Brooklyn.
Upon arrival in lower Manhattan, I struggled for about two hours to get to a position where I could see into the park, to no avail. From a block away, I saw massive piles of what used to be supplies dumped into waiting trucks. The major concerns were two-fold: first, the health and safety of the occupiers locked in the camp; and second, the 5,000 books of the Occupy Wall Street library. What a picture it would be (maybe it exists) of police in riot gear gathering boxes of donated books and loading them into garbage trucks. A perfect metaphor for what appears to be the intention of last night's raid: destroying the body of knowledge that had been collected by a movement just two months old, which was built by collective effort, literally from the ground up.
After four hours of wandering in groups and alone on the dark, empty streets of lower Manhattan, Foley Square, a park rich with the history of labor struggles in New York City, became the rallying point. After a short discussion with the handful of police on hand, Foley Square was determined to be a safe zone – for the time being.
Here I sit, watching the pulse of the Occupy Wall Street movement strengthen. Stories of arrests are being exchanged over a breakfast of apples and muffins. A sleepless crowd is beginning to be reinforced by New Yorkers from around the city as the morning news streams images of a camp turned back into a barren, soulless corporate park known as Zuccotti. But the drums are back. The spirit and the idea of the Occupy movement has only been strengthened. Today is the end of the beginning, and what has been built cannot be disbanded. Now, we stand at the beginning of the next phase, looking into the eyes of the people who created a new consciousness and a new politics.
Today is November 15, 2011, a beautiful day tainted only by the physical harm of those who left their blood and sweat on the cement of Liberty Park.
[Editor's Note: The author of this piece has been involved in some aspects of > organizing for the Occupy Wall Street movement.]
11:09 PM EDT – One blk south on bdwy. Crowd isn't happy. #ows (From Matt's Twitter Stream)
1:37 AM EDT – Police currently in three grps around foley. Not looking arresty yet. #ows (From Matt's Twitter Stream)
4:04 AM EDT – #ows lives!!! (From Matt's Twitter Stream)
4:11 AM EDT – Flag rescued from Liberty Plaza. #ows it will be returned to its home. (From Matt's Twitter Stream)
6:15 AM EDT – New #occupywallstreet space. #ows 6th ave and Grand NYC (From Matt's Twitter Stream)
Full Disclosure: Matt Renner, the author of this report, has been involved in some organizing aspects of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.