‘Shame on America, shame on the police … This is not okay. This is an embarrassment for the country,’ protester says
A demonstrator yells at police officers as they order Occupy Wall Street protesters to leave Zuccotti Park, their longtime encampment in New York, early Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011.
NEW YORK — Hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear, descended on Zuccotti Park after midnight Tuesday in a surprise sweep of the Occupy Wall Street headquarters.
Some protesters were chained to trees and each other but were nevertheless removed from the park, which was cleared in less than three hours in what appeared to be a highly coordinated action.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said there were about 70 arrests in the park, while NBC New York’s Jonathan Dienst, who is at the scene, reported that he had counted 40 arrests along Broadway.
Latest updates on BreakingNews.com
A few protesters, who appeared to resist and shove at officers, were then thrown to the ground and placed in handcuffs, he reported.
Melissa Russo of NBC New York reported that residents near Zuccotti Park were not being allowed out of buildings to watch the eviction and that police were telling doormen to lock up.
Ryan Peters, 29, from Chicago, who took leave of absence from the advertising agency where he works to tour different Occupy protests, cried as he told msnbc.com’s Miranda Leitsinger that about 30 people had chained themselves up inside the Occupy protest’s kitchen area.
“People want to fight for something that’s really important,” he said. “It makes me cry every time I think of them (the people in the kitchen) getting locked down in the park … these guys are patriots.”
Another protester, Luc Baillargeon, 29, told Leitsinger that “a few” people were treated for pepper burns and minor lacerations but he added there were no apparent signs of serious injuries. NYPD told WNBC three people were injured during the evacuations, one of whom was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
Meanwhile, a message on the @OccupyWallSt Twitter account said that city council member Ydanis Rodriguez was “beaten by nypd and bleeding from head.”
Trash is piled high near Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street’s longtime encampment in New York, during the cleanup effort early Tuesday. AP Photo/John Minchillo
After being evicted, several hundred demonstrators regrouped in nearby Foley Square to discuss their next move, setting up a new Twitter account.
Nicholas Frechette, 25, said he had been pepper sprayed during the eviction but was undeterred.
“We broke the night together doing something truly revolutionary,” he said in Foley Square.
Police said protesters would be allowed to return to Zuccotti Park when it reopened as expected at 8.30am — but without tents.
Help us report
What did you see? Send us a video or eyewitness report.
The police operation in the park — known by the demonstrators as Liberty Park or Liberty Square — comes just two days ahead of a massive planned demonstration Thursday marking the movement’s two-month anniversary.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the move to evict the protesters and tear down their tent city.
“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. “There have been reports of businesses being threatened and complaints about noise and unsanitary conditions that have seriously impacted the quality of life for residents and businesses in this now-thriving neighborhood.”
“Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags,” he added. “Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
The highly coordinated manouevre prompted firebrand left-wing film-maker and activist Michael Moore to ask on Twitter whether President Obama or federal agencies had been involved in planning the clearance in New York and other Occupy camps in Portland, Ore., Denver and Oakland, Calif.
Letters to protesters
After the raid, thousands of dollars worth of computer and camera equipment, tents and sleeping bags could be seen piled in the center of the park by sanitation workers. Police said in a statement that the items would be brought to a sanitation garage where they could be collected later.
Police earlier handed out notices from Brookfield Office Properties, owner of Zuccotti Park, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous.
Justin Stone-Diaz, a member of the ‘Think Tank’ policy group set up by the protestors, told msnbc.com that police had used a Long Range Acoustic Device — a powerful speaker that disperses crowds by producing an uncomfortable sound.
Another protester, Nan Terrie, an 18-year-old law student, told msnbc.com that a number of people had also chained themselves up in the women’s tents.
“This is an illegal eviction (that) they are trying to do to us,” she said.
Thorin Caristo, 37, whose eyes appeared red and swollen, told msnbc.com he felt stinging in his eyes for several minutes after being cleared from the camp.
“I feel like this (action) will be a catalyst for the movement,” he said.
Protester John Murdock told msnbc.com he was arrested and held for four hours. “Shame on America, shame on the police,” he said. “This is not okay. This is an embarassment for the country.
“We’re just getting started. We changed the conversation of the nation. This is just another chapter.”
Crowds chanted “The people united will never be divided” in Foley Square.
Protester Han Shan, 39, left his job to work on the movement full time. He was at the park helping get out media equipment and supplies as the eviction took place and then moved one block away to “bear witness.”
“I think obviously people are angry. We see like thousands … of police amassing around a peaceful protest,” he told msnbc.com.
“It’s one night in what is a growing movement … this is a movement now that is much, much larger than one square in downtown Manhattan,” Shan added. “We’ve seen sweeps of occupations in Oakland and Denver and other places, but I don’t think that it’s going to affect the momentum of this movement.”
Police move across U.S.
The eviction effort comes on the heels of authorities shutting down Occupy camps in Portland, Ore., Denver and Oakland, Calif.
“They’ve been doing this all across the country so I believe that this is a coordinated effort to shut down our movement, which, of course will fail. Every time that they have attempted to take action against us we’ve only grown,” Bruner added.
A Bloomberg News report Monday stated that mayors across the country ordered police to shut down camps, arguing they had deteriorated from a protest against income inequality into a backdrop for crime and violence.
Occupy camps from Oakland, Calif., to Portland, Ore., have grappled with drug overdoses, sexual assaults and thefts, reported Bloomberg News, of which mayor Michael Bloomberg is founder and majority owner.
NBC News’ Jonathan Dienst, msnbc.com’s Miranda Leitsinger and Bob Sullivan, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.