James Downie of the WaPo Speaks Out Against Bloomberg's Raid On Occupy Wall Street
The NYPD cleared Zuccotti Park in a surprise raid early Tuesday morning on the orders of Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Subway stations near the occupation site were closed prior to the raid in an apparent attempt to prevent protesters from mobilizing their allies to defend the occupation, as they did last month.
The authorities did their best to ensure that the raid took place in a news blackout. The city even closed the air space over Lower Manhattan to keep news helicopters away. Journalists from AP and the Daily News were arrested as they tried to cover the eviction.
James Downie of the Washington Post writes:
Bloomberg’s brazenness has only increased during the morning. At 6:30 a.m., Judge Lucy Billings issued an injunction “requiring the protesters to be readmitted to Zuccotti Park with their tents,” but Bloomberg has ignored the court order and kept the park closed. Protesters have marched to Zucotti Park, but are being barred from entrance despite displaying that court order to the police on site. At this time, the mayor’s office has not explained why it is ignoring the court order.
Most disturbingly, the NYPD sought to block any and all press from covering this eviction. On the ground, reporters were stopped at the barricades and refused entrance. Numerous journalists reported that cops refused to let them in, even pushing reporters away; reporters even Tweeted about getting arrested. In the air, NYPD helicopters refused to allow CBS News helicopters to film the eviction from above. As for the camera already in the park-OWS’s livestream-the police simply blocked it with a pile of torn-up tents.
Later in his post, Downie zeros in on the seemingly contradictory rationales for this morning’s action. Did Bloomberg decide to clear the park because the owner, Brookfield Properties, asked him to? Or was it because the occupation was a health hazard? Or, because some protesters were breaking the law? The mayor’s scattershot statement touched on all of these themes without making a convincing case for any of them.
Zuccotti Park is open to the public 24 hours a day, but Brookfield rules forbid camping or sleeping there.
As Downie notes, the occupiers have been cleaning the park throughout their stay. The mayor cited no evidence of any health or safety hazard posed by the tents themselves. Note that Zuccotti Park is a concrete plaza, so the fire hazard seems minimal.
Bloomberg did not explain why the press were kept away from Zuccotti Park this time. Nor did he attempt to justify the NYPD’s decision to discard Zuccotti Park’s >5500-volume People’s Library.
Update: At least some of the books are safe in City custody on 57th Street.
[Photo credit: Amanda Farrah, Creative Commons.]