The New York Police Department cleared pro-democracy protesters from Zuccotti Park in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday morning in an attempt to stifle a fast-growing movement against class warfare by wealthy citizens and corporations.
“Occupy Wall Street is being raided by NYC police,” Adam Green of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee said in a statement. He indicated the raid began at 1:10 a.m.
At least 140 protesters were arrested in the park, including some who chained themselves together. At least one person was hospitalized. Additional arrests outside the park should boost the final tally to nearly 200.
The official justification was the need to clear the park so sanitation crews could clean it. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who became a billionaire by selling information to Wall Street companies, has taken an adversarial stance toward protesters since they first occupied Zuccotti Park to protest the continuing shift of national wealth to the richest 1% on Sept. 17.
“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 in a prepared statement on his website. “From the beginning, I have said that the City had two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protestors’ First Amendment rights. But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority. That is why, several weeks ago the City acted to remove generators and fuel that posed a fire hazard from the park.”
Elected leaders in the United States have used similar excuses in the past 20 years to curtail civil rights, justify domestic surveillance programs, and approve the use of torture against non-Americans.
Bloomberg is the 12th richest person in the U.S. with a net worth estimated at $19.5 billion. Much of his wealth has been generated by the roughly 400,000 terminals of the Bloomberg information service, which provides market data and news to people who can afford its $1,500 a month pricetag. The vast majority of Bloomberg subscribers are employed in the financial industry targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The Zuccotti Park raid occurred as protesters announced on their website that they planned to “shut down Wall Street” with a demonstration Thursday to commemorate their second month there.
Protesters were told they could return in several hours, but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents. The city had previously stripped the nonviolent group of its generators on similar “safety” grounds, while permitting food carts and TV satellite trucks ringing the area to continue using them.
The protesters had used the generators to power heaters while sleeping outside in tents in the frigid Northeast.
Most were those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a Democrat who represents northern Manhattan, was among them, according to The New York Times. He was with a group near the intersection of Broadway and Vesey Street attempting to reach the park.
The crackdown comes one day after Oakland police cleared pro-democracy protesters from their tents outside City Hall in a similar pre-dawn raid, arresting 50. Two of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s top aides announced their resignations immediately before and after the raid: Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu and legal advisor Dan Siegel. Communications consultant Nathan Ballard allegedly quit the Quan administration last month in frustration with her handling of the protest.
“This whole thing is, I think, kind of like a Greek tragedy for Jean (top left),” Siegel told The Bay Citizen. “I am sad about it.”
There were no reports of similar resignations within the Bloomberg administrtation as this story was published.
Bloomberg (below right) changed New York City law to allow himself to pursue a third term in 2009. He is not expected to do so again in order to seek a fourth term.
The raid on Zuccotti Park was made 12 days after the New York Post, which is owned by fellow media mogul Rupert Murdoch, issued an editorial calling for such action, which derided the protesters as “out-of-towners.”
What began as a credible protest against bank bailouts, crony capitalism and the like has, in large measure, been hijacked by crazies and criminal,” the Post wrote. “It’s all got to end.”
Murdoch, who has spent most of his life in Australia and England, and his media empire are now under investigation for allegedly hacking the phones of the people they cover. He is an out-of-towner by the Post’s definition.
Bloomberg was born, raised and educated in Massachussetts. Like Murdoch, he maintains a residence in an affluent area of Manhattan.
Neither New York Police Department spokesman Paul Brown nor Bloomberg administration spokesman Stu Loeser replied to requests for comment from The Cynical Times, which is staffed by longtime New Yorkers from less affluent areas of the city.