OWS Protesters Re-Populate Zuccotti, Vow To Last Test Of Time Without Creature Comforts
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One by one, they returned to the very place that evicted them.
Yes, “Occupy Wall Street” protesters were back at Zuccotti Park on Tuesday night, but without their village that had tents, a library, kitchen, work groups and a medical station.
“There’s definitely a profound sense of loss and anger and sort of disbelief,” protester Jessica Lingel told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
A judge ruled against the OWS protesters earlier Tuesday, saying they could return to Zuccotti but without their sleeping bags, tarps and tents.
In a four-page ruling, Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman said that the protesters’ First Amendment rights didn’t entitle them to camp out in the plaza indefinitely.
WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell with the judge’s ruling
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued the following statement after the ruling:
“This morning we planned to re-open Zuccotti Park to the public, including any protestors, at approximately 8 a.m. when the cleaning was completed. The opening of the park was delayed due to legal action taken against the City, but Zuccotti Park is now open to the public. The court’s ruling vindicates our position that First Amendment rights do not include the right to endanger the public or infringe on the rights of others by taking over a public space with tents and tarps.
The City has the ultimate responsibility to protect public health and safety and we will continue to ensure that everyone can express themselves in New York City. Zuccotti Park will remain open to all who want to enjoy it, as long as they abide by the park’s rules.”
Zuccotti officially reopened shortly after 5:3o p.m., CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported. Protesters were let back into the park after being reminded about what they couldn’t bring.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones on the judge’s decision
1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported that protesters were jubilant upon re-entering the park, giving thumbs up and waving flags.
WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports the occupation gets a little less comfortable
For some, Tuesday morning’s raid was a punch to the gut, but for others the court’s decision was not a game-changer.
“Coming here, I’m really sad that everything is gone. It’s destroyed,” Dawn Stewart-Lookkin told Hennessey.
“One little ruling saying we can’t bring in a sleeping bag or a tent to the place isn’t going to deter anybody. This is a movement that’s much bigger,” Anup Yogi Desai added.
There are now just two ways into this movement. Police and barricades make sure of that and protesters don’t appear too happy, chanting “Take down the barricades!” on Tuesday night. Private security guards search large bags to make sure people aren’t smuggling in anything they can sleep in.
“The changes in this park? Yeah, it’s going to be difficult. I’m going to have to sit down on the ground, I might not be able to sleep here, but the spirit and the tone of the conversation has not changed,” protester Austin Hill said.
Protesters said their movement railing against corporate greed and economic inequality has been re-invigorated. Although a big challenge remains — the struggle against the elements, especially when sleeping.
“If there’s a will there’s a way,” Yvette Vigo said, adding she’s prepared to tough it out without the supplies. “Yeah, I guess so. It’s worth it.”
But others plan on coming back Wednesday.
“Folks are e-mailing in saying I have room for 75 people in Rockaway, N.J. I have room for 12 people in Brooklyn,” protester Julien Harrison said.
The lights that have returned remind us of the park’s altered landscape, but the spirit so far is unchanged.
“There will be challenges, but when you’re trying to change what we’re trying to change, it’s going to be an ongoing struggle,” Cheryl Parry said.
Police raided the park overnight, clearing out demonstrators who have been camped there for nearly two months.
PHOTOS: NYPD Raid On Zuccotti Park
Earlier Tuesday, Bloomberg said protesters were evicted from the park because “the safety and health conditions became intolerable.” “Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,” Bloomberg said.
In a statement released Tuesday, the owners of the park, Brookfield Properties, said it too wanted the park cleared because it “had become dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe.”
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Sean Adams at Zuccotti Park
“In our view, these risks were unacceptable and it would have been irresponsible to not request that the City take action,” Brookfield said.
WATCH: CBS2’s Kristin Thorne On Protesters Surrounding Zuccotti Park
About 1,000 officers in riot gear moved in around 1 a.m. Tuesday after warning demonstrators to clear out.
Once officers evicted the protesters, sanitation workers began to clear the park of the tents and other items left behind.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ John Montone reports
“This action was taken at this time of day to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood,” Bloomberg said. “Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
On the ground, one protestor streamed live video of police piling up everything left behind in the park.
Most of the demonstrators left peacefully, but others did not. One group of protesters tied themselves with rope to a nearby tree.
“We’re peacefully protesting and were exercising our First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” said one demonstrator. “Look at how they’re treating us. They’re treating us like were some sort of violent people.”
Bloomberg said around 200 people were arrested. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said about 142 of those arrested were in the park and another 50 or 60 were in the streets nearby.
Kelly also said officers “showed an awful lot of restraint” during the raid and said police gave protesters 45 minutes to gather their belongings and leave before entering the park.
He said demonstrators were given until 3:30 a.m. to leave voluntarily before officers began making arrests.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said Zuccotti Park was completely cleared by 4:30 a.m.
Not all city lawmakers are on the same page. Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) issued a statement Tuesday morning about the raid.
“Given the NYPD’s sneaky tactics early on, I am not surprised by the NYPD’s efforts to use the cloak of night as a shield for their brazen violation of the First Amendment. I expected this would happen; I just did not know when. This violent raid of Zuccotti Park was clearly a coordinated effort to subvert a peaceful protest at Occupy Wall Street,” Williams said.
New York State Sen. Liz Krueger also issued a statement.
“I am very disturbed that the City’s approach to dealing with the ‘health and fire safety’ issues raised by the Zuccotti protest was a surprise ambush in the middle of the night,” Krueger said. “Physically forcing people out of the park or leaving them to face arrest, with no notice or warning, is not a commitment to civil rights and it certainly was not the right way to handle this situation.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union also condemned the raid.
“The eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park was not about public health. Rousting hundreds of peaceful protesters from their tents in the dead of night amid a media blackout doesn’t promote public safety – it endangers it,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
The city says the tents, blankets and other items left behind will not be thrown away. Instead, they are being sent to the Department of Sanitation garage on the west side.
The following protocols have been set in place for anyone wanting to claim personal property that was removed from Zuccotti. From Wednesday through Friday anyone wishing to claim property should go to the Department of Sanitation’s Manhattan District 7 Garage located on West 56th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. To gain access to the garage to claim your property, you should present valid photo identification. You will be asked to fill out a claim form regarding your property and provide any proof you may have that the items you are claiming should be returned you.
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