Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eviction on Wall Street

Just back from the eviction on Wall Street.  Walking back over the Brooklyn Bridge I recalled my friend Seth’s words from the first Tuesday of the occupation.  “They keep you on a tight leash,” he explained as he painted a sign.  “They may give you a little room, but they keep the leash.”  I’ve wondered when the other shoe was going to drop for two months now.  It didn’t happen that first Tuesday of the Occupation, even after the police evicted people from their tents.  It didn’t happen the following Saturday, the 24th, when the police surrounded the square and then turned away once major media outlets arrived.  And it didn’t happen on October 14th when the city said they were coming in to clean the space.

Instead, it happened on a Tuesday morning shortly after midnight, when few were looking.  Times Up had finally finished getting fifteen bikes down to the space and attached bike powered generators.  Some of us had participated in sustainability from the inception of the working group; another group was working on the book project.  A group of us were sitting at ABC No Rio talking about Nabakov when calls starting pouring in.  “There is a huge buildup of police in East River park,” one caller declared.  “It’s a shift change.  Call us when you get down there,” another member of the group responded.  Worries about raids had come and gone for weeks.  

Riding downtown, we saw more police than usual on the streets.  Riding past Maiden Lane, it seemed like hundreds of police were passing us by.  By the time we got to Zuccotti Park a little past midnight, there was no place to park our bikes.  When I started to lock up my bike on Broadway, a policeman commented, “I wouldn’t park it here.  If you can’t figure it out, use your eyes.”   I looked up and saw a policeman in riot gear with a baton in her hand.  It was going to be tonight.  Walking around the park, I could see police surrounding the space and turning on flood lights.
               “Please get out of the park,” police were advising everyone.
               “Whose park? Our Park,” some responded.  Others starting leaving.
Barricades were now everywhere.  The police were now holding By 1 AM, no one else was allowed into the park.  A wall of cops surrounded those in the park.  And they started pushing a group of us at Liberty and Broadway, a block away and out of the eyesight of the raid.  I knew the NY Times and some media were inside.  They’d gotten there before the raid.  By 1:30 AM, fire trucks were rushing down Broadway, their sirens blaring.

               “When are you guys going to protect the people?” one man asked a policeman.

               “Just doing their jobs ruining democracy,” a photographer commented as the police pushed us up and away another block. 

               “Mic check – something horrible is happening here,” another commented with the human mic.
Our bikes were parked down on Trinity by the Burger King across from the park.  The police would not let us go back to retrieve them, so we walked past Ground Zero, across the highway, and back up to Trinity, or as close we could get.  The entrances were again blocked off.  I talked with one man walking out from the space.  He confirmed that the police had pepper sprayed those still inside the park, as well as used sound rays to disorient those inside.  They reported the police were now destroying the tents and reasserting control. “The most upsetting thing was watching the tents get taken away.”  There was no way to get my bike back. 

               “How  long will it be before I can get my bike down there?”
               “Maybe an hour, maybe all time, all night.”
   “Whose streets?  Our streets,” some screamed.
               “We are the 99%” another ground screamed, as they blocked a van driving down Broadway. 
The police spend the rest of the night pushing people off the sidewalks, telling everyone they cannot occupy the sidewalks. When I left people were gathering downtown at Foley Square, planning their next move. 

Rode by the space this morning and everything was cleared out.  The Times Up! bike powered generators gone.  So much of the innovation dispersed. Many of the homeless youth at an agency for LGBT homeless youth slept and ate there when other shelter spaces fell thin. Now where are they going to sleep,
back to the usual gaps in services. One of the thing I love about ows is how it created spaces, however imperfect, for many. Sad that the city must continually take away these community spaces.

Its hard not to think about the Paris Commune of  1871 or 1968 in moments such as this.  The temporary autonomous zones rarely last long.  Yet, after adrenaline fades and people go  back to  work.  The question remains, does everyday life remain the same?  Or is it changed? The world has learned a great deal about income inequality it didn’t know just a few months prior.  Consciousness around the word changed as result of the struggles of the 99.   I hope and believe the lessons will be long lasting, along with the movement which propelled it.  

1 comment:

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