Mayor takes back Liberty Square

Amity Paye AmNews Web Manager | 11/17/2011, 1:09 p.m.
At 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, hundreds of protestors were confronted by police in Liberty Square-also...
Mayor takes back Liberty Square

At 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, hundreds of protestors were confronted by police in Liberty Square-also known as Zuccotti Park, the home of Occupy Wall Street. Still more protestors received the call to action and came rushing downtown only to be met by police in riot gear pushing, pepper spraying and hitting protestors in order to prevent them from getting close to the park.

Amongst all this chaos, many groups were split apart and three contingents of protestors were formed. The first group stayed put at Liberty Square, where most were arrested. Members of the camp's kitchen working group chained themselves by the necks to trees in order to stay in the park but were later arrested as well.

The second contingent of protestors headed down to Battery Park. There they spent some time regrouping before marching back uptown to Broadway and Pine Street and working to barricade the streets, trying to stop dump trucks containing all of the material taken out of the park from driving away.

The third group marched uptown in several groups along Broadway, clashing with police.

During the march, a few integral Black members of the Occupy Wall Street group were targeted for arrest by police. "They are trying to arrest Hero," yelled many voices in the crowd as it neared Broadway and Fourth Street. The young Black protestor, Hero, with whom the Amsterdam News spoke earlier this month was surrounded by protestors who were trying to protect him, but once police spotted him, they charged the crowd to arrest him.

At least twice during the night Nelini, a Black protestor who has been part of the group from day 1 whom the Amsterdam News also profiled weeks ago, was also targeted and grabbed by police but pulled back into the crowd by nearby protestors.

Both Hero and Nelini, who have already been arrested during other Occupy protests, were arrested Tuesday morning.

The third contingent of protestors eventually headed back downtown to Foley Square, where they set up an impromptu camp with an information desk, medical aid and food. They then held a General Assembly to decide what to do next.

"Just because we lost Zuccotti Park doesn't mean we lost the movement. We exist everywhere in our minds and in our hearts," said Brittany Robinson, a Black protestor who has worked in outreach and with Occupy CUNY, as she helped facilitate the General Assembly at Foley Square.

"I had the privilege of going into Zuccotti Park, and this was the only thing overlooked by the sanitation crew that threw away all our private property," said one protestor, holding up an American flag. "I bring this to you hoping that you will bring it back to Zuccotti Park"

With a new sense of determination as the sun rose, the Foley Square group decided to march past a press conference that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was giving about the successful effort to close Liberty Square. Making their point, the protestors rounded City Hall and marched uptown to meet clergy and other religious leaders assembled at Juan Pablo Duarte Square.

"I don't think I've ever seen so many Black and Latino cops in my life, it was all white cops attacking us in the nighttime. Y'all ain't in my hood," yelled Malik Rhasaan, founder of Occupy the Hood, addressing the police as he marched from Foley Square to Duarte Square.

Deputy Inspector Kim Royster, commanding officer of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI), responded to this accusation via email, saying, "The NYPD does not deploy officers based upon their ethnicity."

During the day's protests, however, many noticed the discrepancies. Members of Occupy the Hood and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement spoke directly to the Black and Latino police surrounding them. "Slaves and slave drivers. I'm just saying that's what it looks like: white commanders, Black cops," said Rhassan.

Those who were not arrested from the three contingents eventually marched back to Liberty Square around 11 a.m. after word spread of a New York State Supreme Court order requiring police to allow protestors back into the park.

A copy of the order was passed around to protestors and press on site. It read: "IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that until this matter is heard on the date set forth above (11/15/11 at 11:30 a.m.) respondents/defendants are prohibited from: (a) Evicting protestors from Liberty Park/Zuccotti Park and or (b) enforcing the 'rules' published after the occupation began or otherwise preventing protestors from re-entering the park."

But the police, standing behind two rows of barricades, refused to let protestors back into the park. "You're in contempt of court," chanted hundreds of protestors in unison.

At 11:30 a.m., a court hearing began that overrode the Supreme Court order. The hearing ended with New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman ruling against protestors, deciding they had not proven they have "a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations."

Protestors were allowed back into Liberty Park by 5:40 p.m. that day under the stipulation that they adhere to park rules, which forbid camping among other things. The park was barricaded on all sides, with police controlling two entrances on either side of the park and checking people's bags before allowing them to enter.

"Good Germans said, 'We only followed orders,'" chanted one group of protestors. "We've been here for a long time. Can you last 60 days out here?" yelled one chanter from the crowd, "Doesn't look like it."

Protestors have planned a day of action for Thursday, Nov. 17. The civil disobedience planned for this day will only be fueled by the police and court actions on Tuesday.