The Occupy Wall Street protesters have been evicted from Zuccotti Park — with members of the press kept at a distance to minimize coverage. And the thousands of books of the People’s Library have been confiscated by police and thrown into the trash. Outrageous.
Mayor Bloomberg released a statement that is all sweetness and reason, but this part scares me:
No right is absolute and with every right comes responsibilities. The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out – but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others – nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here – the First Amendment protects speech – it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.
“No right is absolute”? Not even free speech, or the right to peaceful assembly, in what the mayor himself calls a public space? Let’s be clear here: these were not rioters, and they did not pose any danger to those around them. If customers were avoiding businesses in the area, that’s their choice, but the protesters weren’t shutting those businesses down. If residents were annoyed by the midnight drum circles, well, tough shit; democracy means tolerating some noise from people you don’t agree with. The protesters were perfectly within their rights to take up space — public space — and be heard. And if there was a conflict between the fundamental right to free speech and peaceful assembly on one hand and a local law banning tents and sleeping bags on the other, is there really any question, in a supposedly democratic society, about which should take precedence? Bloomberg needs to get his priorities straight. Then again, perhaps the 99% shouldn’t expect any accommodation from the remaining 1% that counts the mayor among its ranks.
The OWS PR team’s response below, in full:
New York, NY — A massive police force is presently evicting Liberty Square, home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months and birthplace of the 99% movement that has spread across the country and around the world
The raid started just after 1:00am. Supporters and allies are mobilizing throughout the city, presently converging at Foley Square. Supporters are also planning public actions for the coming days, including occupation actions.
Two months ago a few hundred New Yorkers set up an encampment at the doorstep of Wall Street. Since then, Occupy Wall Street has become a national and even international symbol — with similarly styled occupations popping up in cities and towns across America and around the world. A growing popular movement has significantly altered the national narrative about our economy, our democracy, and our future.
Americans are talking about the consolidation of wealth and power in our society, and the stranglehold that the top 1% have over our political system. More and more Americans are seeing the crises of our economy and our democracy as systemic problems, that require collective action to remedy. More and more Americans are identifying as part of the 99%, and saying “enough!”
This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic. The “us” in the movement is far broader than those who are able to participate in physical occupation. The movement is everyone who sends supplies, everyone who talks to their friends and families about the underlying issues, everyone who takes some form of action to get involved in this civic process.
This moment is nothing short of America rediscovering the strength we hold when we come together as citizens to take action to address crises that impact us all.
Such a movement cannot be evicted. Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces — our spaces — and, physically, they may succeed. But we are engaged in a battle over ideas. Our idea is that our political structures should serve us, the people — all of us, not just those who have amassed great wealth and power. We believe that is a highly popular idea, and that is why so many people have come so quickly to identify with Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement.
You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.
An additional statement:
New York, NY — We are a global movement that is reclaiming our humanity and our future. We have stepped into a revitalizing civic process, realizing that we cannot fix our crises isolated from one another. We need collective action, and we need civic space. We are creating that civic space.
To occupy is to embody the spirit of liberation that we wish to manifest in our society. It is to exercise our freedom to assemble. We are creating space for community, values, ideas, and a level of meaningful dialogue that is absent in the present discourse.
Liberated space is breaking free of isolation, breaking down the walls that literally and figuratively separate us from one another. It is a new focus on community, trust, love and hope. We occupy to create a vision of equality, liberty and social justice onto the blank paving stones of public parks, in the silent hallways of abandoned schools, banks, and beyond. Public space plays a crucial role in this civic process and encourages open, transparent organizing in our movement. As we have seen in Liberty Square, outdoor space invites people to listen, speak, share, learn, and act. Last night, billionaire Michael Bloomberg sent a massive police force to evict members of the public from Liberty Square — home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months. People who were part of a dynamic civic process were beaten and pepper-sprayed, their personal property destroyed.Supporters of this rapidly growing movement were mobilized in the middle of the night, making phone calls, taking the streets en masse, and planning next steps.
Americans and people around the world are appalled at Bloomberg’s treatment of people who peacefully assemble. We are appalled, but not deterred. Liberty Square was dispersed, but its spirit not defeated. Today we are stronger than we were yesterday. Tomorrow we will be stronger still. We are breaking free of the fear that constricts and confines us. We occupy to liberate.We move forward in the grand tradition of the transformative social movements that have defined American history. We stand on the shoulders of those who have struggled before us, and we pick up where others have left off. We are creating a better society for us all.Occupy Wall Street has renewed a sense of hope. It has revived a belief in community and awakened a revolutionary spirit too long silenced.
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number —
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many — they are few.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley