”I hope we shall take warning from the example [of the ruin of the hereditary aristocracy] and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” -Thomas Jefferson, November 12, 1816 (also quoted in Citizens United)
Last week, Mayor Bloomberg had dismissed the protests in Zuccotti Park as a weather related thing and said the protesters could stay as long as they pleased, assuming in his motherly way that they’ll just sort of get it out their system. Then we could all return to that most sublime of all states, business as usual.
But just three days later Bloomberg changed his mind after receiving a letter from Brookfield Management citing (I swear to god) suspicious packages. He decided to clean out the park using a method that I’ve always found effective for hard to remove embarrassing stains: the pre-dawn raid. He gave the protestors, I think, about 12 hours notice. The protestors could return, he claimed, just not with sleeping bags and camping equipment or what a federal judge might call “their constitutionally protected means of expression”.
I biked down there early on October 14 when the raid was scheduled. All the streets were dark and empty and I wasn’t sure how many people would arrive to stand with the protesters. But a few blocks away from the park, I heard an enormous roar and smiled. The park was jam packed, filled to the brim with supporters. Unlike previous visits, after entering the crowd, I couldn’t really move from my spot. There were too many people.
Here are the photos:
The General Assembly tells us to all link arms around the perimeter:
But at the 11th hour the mass-arrest is called off. The cleaning has been “postponed” since the management company believes it can “come to an arrangement” with the protesters. This message doesn’t come from Bloomberg but rather from the “deputy mayor”, as if Bloomberg himself is off attending to more important affairs and can’t be bothered with scheduling errors, or really, errors of any sort. Cheers break out, a brass band springs from the crowd, playing raucous celebratory New Orleans style jazz:
Police officers have lined the park with barricades that morning and so it is difficult to move around. It is impossible for all of us to stay in the park and protest. People spread out to march north and south in celebration. Here officers line the north side of the park. Behind them is “Ground Zero”. A new office tower rises, half-finished, beside the hole. Behind it, in the mist somewhere, is the equally half-baked “Freedom Tower”.
The threat diminished, immediately a girl falls asleep in a barrel:
Turning around from the girl in the barrel, I see Hipster Cop and less stylish police higher ups huddled in discussion. I hope they are thinking of joining the protests soon.
The infamous sign:
One of the numerous bronzes in the city dedicated to the shackled spirit:
And here come the sweepers! Wheeeee…..
Walking back from the arrests on Maiden Lane, a police officer ducks as I photograph him. Later I learn just how ignoble the scene was. The N.Y.P.D. had run over an observer with the National Lawyer’s Guild with their scooter, then left it parked on his leg as he pursued someone else! Yikes!
On my way back home, quite far away from the protests, beneath the Williamsburg bridge, police officers are chatting, and tending to a man with a bloodied head as he sits on the edge of a paddy wagon. You can see him getting arrested in the scooter video. At first, I thought the badge hanging around his neck was a press pass, but perhaps it identifies him as an observer for the N.L.G.
Here’s a pic of Marie-Antoinette from earlier in the week:
Many people think the protests are ridiculous or gross, perceiving the thing as a pile of dirty kids camping in an otherwise nice park. But in fact, the opposite is true. That place was ridiculous and gross before the protesters got there. It existed as a sort of barren marble sepulcher. Business men would line up to eat their lunch on the stone slab that marked the entrance, never really wanting to go inside. Nothing was there unless you count the McDonalds and the Bank of America ATM. Like most of midtown and the financial district, it existed as a middle-nowhere, a means to get to and from work. You only lingered there if you were forced to, if you had nowhere else to go. The protesters have done nothing but civilize it. Now there’s art, discussion, and lectures by the world’s leading intellectuals, all for free. Here’s some photographs of the library from early last week: