The police and Occupiers held their ground for about an hour, the police repeating their order to clear the area and disperse. The Occupiers chanted, arms linked, sitting in the plaza, observed by the approved media pool and supporters kept at a distance by the police line. At 2 am the arrests began. Occupiers were cuffed in plastic and put on the buses for transport to booking and jail. According to reports given to Carol Sobel (ACLU) and Jim Lafferty (NLG), people were left on the buses for up to seven hours, in restraints, without water or access to toilets, and were forced to soil themselves.
After the media left and live coverage ended, incidents of police assaulting Occupiers were reported. Some 280 people were arrested and charged with failing to obey police orders, a misdemeanor, but were held on $5000 bail, an outrageous abuse of judicial power. Eventually, bail was reduced and most were released on their own recognizance after a day or two.
The park is now fenced, the debris cleared. The General Assembly continues to meet on the west side, four times a week. Committees continue to function. Actions will continue, including occupations to prevent evictions of families and marches in support of labor. People in the #OWS movement seem to be saying pretty much the same thing in the wake of the police actions that swept the country. The occupation of public space is not the point, but talking about jobs, fairness, democracy and a decent society is what it’s about. The goal for now appears to be to reach out into the communities, to educate and “broaden the base” of the movement, to form stronger alliances among students, labor, the immigrant community and the Green movement.
When I visited the encampment (on the anniversary of the JFK assassination), I didn’t think I’d get to return. That same Tuesday evening, the City announced the park would be closed and cleared Sunday night, the 27th. The police did show up, but so did several thousand citizens. The police left, and the Occupation resumed, but the tension remained. So, on Tuesday afternoon, I went back one more time. As the pictures I took show, much of the encampment had departed, people removing what they feared the police would destroy. The stalwarts who remained had no doubt that the police would come, soon, to remove them. They were ready to resist, non-violently, and go to jail. As it turned out, the police did come that night, and the people I talked to did go to jail.
The movement is going into its next phase. Occupations will continue, here and there, as strategy dictates. They can’t evict an idea. The teachable moment continues.