Police have begun clearing out 'Occupy' protester camps in New York. There are also claims that pepper spray is being used. The raid comes after activists vowed heightened action this coming Thursday, to mark two months since the movement began.
Occupy Wall Street protesters have clashed with police in Zuccotti Park after being ordered to leave their longtime encampment in New York. At least 200 people have been arrested, with the police said to have used pepper spray. Meanwhile, City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, 51, has reportedly been beaten by the NYPD and is bleeding from the head.
Five hours after the NYPD raid, the protesters were allowed back into Zuccotti Park.
The police operation commenced at approximately 1am Tuesday. The activists who have been living in the park during the past two months had no idea that the raid was planned. Hundreds of police mobilized around the park showing protesters letters informing them that they need to leave the encampment temporarily. The NYC Mayor's Office has also posted their demand on Twitter. The tweet read: “Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protestors can return after the Park is cleared.”
Some of protesters refused to leave the park. They resisted with chants of “Whose park? Our park!” as officers began moving in and tearing down tents.
According to RT’s Marina Portnaya, one of the eyewitnesses said on record that some police officers were using knives to tear open the tents people were sleeping in and were yelling on them to get out and to remove the property from the park. Demonstrators were told they will be allowed to return to the park, although without their property, which will be taken to a sanitation garage.
Peaceful protesters have been dragged out of the “kitchen” by their arms and legs while nonviolently resisting the NYPD, which has also repeatedly tear-gassed people. Police have put barricades all around the park, preventing journalists and others from getting in. Police helicopters have closed the airspace over the Occupy Wall Street encampment, precluding news helicopters from filming. No video cameras have been allowed.
Witnesses posted on Twitter that a garbage truck had backed up to the Joie de Vivre sculpture and workers were throwing tents, tarps, debris and other gear into truck. There have been reports that some activists have formed a human shield to prevent police from breaking down the camp. And cops are said to have used tear gas to disperse the cordon and get the resisting activists out of the park. Police also reportedly used a long-range acoustic device (LRAD), which is usually used to disperse violent riots, against peaceful protesters.
Those protesters who chained themselves to each other and to some trees were removed from the park after police cut down the trees. Those who left Zuccotti Park by themselves then marched up to Foley Square, where the Unions called for a general assembly at 7am that morning.
The police claimed that the eviction is a measure due to health control and that the park needs to be inspected.
The camp has been completely destroyed. All the tents and personal belongings have been carried out. All the books that were donated to the library which was set up at the encampment have been thrown out. All the “facilities” activists set up in their camp, such as a first aid center and kitchen, have been removed.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has also come to the scene. As RT’s Marina Portnaya reports from New York, this is one of the rare times when he has personally come to the Zuccotti Park.
The eviction comes just two days ahead of a massive planned demonstration Thursday to mark two-months of the movement’s existence. Demonstrators are planning to march in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning and then rally near City Hall in the evening.
Occupy Wall Street started in September to protests against economic inequality and had inspired dozens of similar protests around the world.