Around 1 AM last night, word spread that the NYPD was raiding Zuccotti Park. Sure enough, ominous lines of cops decked out in riot gear appeared on the livestream, proclaiming that protesters needed to get their stuff and leave the park or they would be arrested.
Down at the park, the NYPD cordoned off entire blocks, prohibiting everyone, even press, from entering. Inside, the police cleared out all the tents and supplies, throwing them into large dumpster trucks. They even disposed of the 5000-volume People’s Library. When they were finished, Zuccotti Park was empty.
Outside the perimeter, police threatened marching protesters with arrests. The march was marred by several jarring incidents of violence. The first that we witnessed was at approximately 2:45 a.m., when we saw one Katherine Garuvis beaten and kicked in the back by police outside of the Fulton subway stop. Other notable conflicts occurred at approximately 3:15 a.m. at Grand and Centre Streets, where we saw at least four people beaten with batons, and around 3:30 a.m. at Spring and Broadway, where we were unable to determine the number of protesters involved. The police generally arrested or beat protesters that ran into the street after being told to stay on the sidewalk.
The march crisscrossed Broadway, chugging up from Foley Square through Chinatown and SoHo. It was a surreal sight to see a protester get wrestled to the ground, beaten, and arrested right in front of a Chase bank and Lucky Brand Jeans. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez was apparently beaten and arrested around 2:45 a.m.; he is now in Central Booking with the other dozens of protesters arrested last night.
Last night’s march revolved around occupying the middle of the street. Around 2:45, we began moving up Broadway, and once we hit Barclay Street, some four or five hundred protesters began walking in the middle of the road. It was a clever idea, if only for the effect: the voice of every protester boomed against Broadway’s giant buildings, making it seem as though there were hundreds more people than were actually marching. When we walked back down to Zuccotti from Soho at around 4 a.m., protesters once again took to the middle of Broadway and Lafayette.
Throughout the night, the conflict between the protesters and organization was at least as strong as the one between protesters and police. The cries of “mic check!” became progressively less effective as the night wore on—protesters were unsure where to go. At West 4th and Broadway—right next to NYU—the protesters split between walking to Washington Square Park and going back down to Zuccotti. Complicating matters were the loud roars of a few combative assholes, looking to turn a late-night march into a war against cops.
Meanwhile, the police took advantage of the protesters’ indecisiveness. On multiple occasions, they blocked crosswalks and directed marchers down alleys in order to split up the protest.
The protest officially split around 4:00 a.m., with some continuing back downtown to Zuccotti, and others headed towards Washington Square Park. There were even some attempts to occupy NYU’s Furman Hall. The protesters at WSP were eventually locked in. Those that went downtown split again; some went to Foley Square (which is trending on Twitter), and others to Broadway and Pike, clustered in an easily kettled circle, waiting to “fight the police.” As of 5 a.m., they were still waiting.
A major point of internal conflict amongst the protesters centered around the throwing of trash cans and street cones. People would throw large objects down in the street, scattering trash and broken glass everywhere, and more protesters would come by and clean it up. Throwing large objects into the street was done under the pretense of “blocking the police,” but it just felt useless and wasteful. As the night wore on, tensions grew over the thrown trash; several fights had to be broken up through chants of, “we are a peaceful movement.”
As it stood when we left, the protesters and labor unions were converging on Foley Square. Another march will be held at 9 a.m. at Canal and 6th. A GA will follow. The events of last night have shocked us—from blocking press access to Zuccotti Park to using excessive force against marchers, to just plain ignoring the traffic laws, the NYPD did not have its best night. In fairness, however, we need to keep perspective—the cab driver on the way down to Zuccotti Park laughed, “in my country, in Bangladesh, the police would just shoot the protestors!”
[Photos by Ari Lipsitz]