Eric Fretz is a socialist activist based in New York who is involved with Occupy Wall Street (OWS). “I got word in the early hours of Tuesday morning that the OWS encampment had been raided by police,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The raid went on for hours until about 4am. There was no warning at all. Many defending this public space were beaten, pepper gassed and arrested.”
Alexi Shalom is a student activist at the City University of New York. “There was absolutely no warning whatsoever,” he says. “They just started moving in and announcing that everyone had to leave the park or face arrest.”
The police put an absurd spin on their actions, claiming was it was necessary to “clean” the park. New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg used a similar claim during an earlier failed attempt to clear out OWS (see Occupy Wall Street protesters force New York mayor to back off).
Eric is scathing about these “health and safety” claims, repeatedly faithfully by much of the mainstream media. “If this was about cleaning, why was it done without warning in the middle of the night? Why did they wantonly destroy the property of occupiers?
“Why was press was kept away? Why were the police chopping down some of the few trees in the park? And what could have presented worse health and safety risks than the tear gas and manhandling handed out by the police?”
The next steps for OWS are currently unclear. Legal moves are underway to return the occupiers to their original site at Zuccotti Park—or Liberty Square, as the protesters have renamed it.
“The National Lawyers Guild got a restraining order today from a judge,” says Alexi. “The judge said that the city had to allowing people back into the square with their possessions—tents and all. So that’s looking pretty positive for the movement.”
In the hours after the eviction several hundred OWS occupiers and supporters gathered in nearby New York spaces such as Foley Square to discuss their next moves. One possibility is to set up alternative protest camps elsewhere—though several public parks in New York are subject to a night time curfew.
There is widespread suspicion that the attack on the New York camp was timed to coincide with similar police actions elsewhere in the US.
“I think they've moved in the wake of other evictions in Oakland and Portland,” says Alexi. “They thought it won’t look so bad in the press because it’s happening everywhere.”
But activists are confident that they have the support of ordinary New Yorkers. “I think most people will be outraged,” says Eric. “The unions in particular will be angry. Officials might try to pull back, but it’s too late. Their will want to build the demonstration planned for this Thursday even bigger.”
Alexi echoes this confidence. “I think it was really foolish of the New York police and Bloomberg to think they could crush our movement this way. Either this is their way of contributing to our cause, or they are just plain stupid.
“Either way, the 17 November demo is now going to be massive as a direct result of these actions. We are going to shut down Wall Street for breakfast, the subways for lunch and the bridges for dinner.”