JAISAL NOOR, JOURNALIST: Early Tuesday morning, New York City police officers raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment, arresting 200 protesters and clearing their camp. Demonstrators initially secured a court order protecting their right to sleep in Zuccotti Park with tents, but another judge later reversed that ruling. Protestors have returned to the park, but many questions remain for the future of the movement. Things started to unfold shortly after midnight. Hundreds of baton- and shield-wielding riot police carried out a surprise raid on the encampment, where hundreds of protesters have camped out for two months. Police demanded campers leave the park with their belongings or be arrested. Many left voluntarily, but more than 100 resisted peacefully, locking arms together to defend their camp. But their efforts were defeated and police violently arrested the remaining protests and tore down the camp, removing tents and clearing all the protestors' belongings, including the Occupy Wall Street Library, which contained over 5,000 books. Shane Stoops has made Zuccotti Park his home since the occupation began on September 17 and says the eviction was not legally justified.SHANE STOOPS, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: They had no legal warrant. They had no judge sign their warrants to come in. We asked repeatedly to see the warrants for eviction. No cop ever showed them to us. No white shirt ever showed us anything. All's they gave us was a phony fricking notice saying about how we are a health and fire hazard.NOOR: Police used batons and pepper spray to disperse remaining protestors. Monica Lopez says the police moved under the cover of darkness and prevented journalists from approaching Zuccotti Park so their actions would not be reported.MONICA LOPEZ, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen, because the first reason of all is they don't--they didn't allow the media last night to be there, and that is illegal. That is illegal. They cannot do what they have done here last night and don't let the media be there recording that and filming what is happening so they can do whatever they want and nobody will see. What kind of country is this one? This is ridiculous.NOOR: Following the raid, demonstrators regrouped at several locations in Lower Manhattan. At 6 a.m. the Liberty Park Legal Working Group and National Lawyers Guild secured a temporary restraining order from New York judge Lucy Billings, allowing the protesters back into the park. But when hundreds of Occupy protestors returned at 11 a.m. demanding entry, police officers refused to let them in. Occupy participants say they won't give up until they are allowed back into the park.OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: My message right now is if they donât know the law, they need to give up their badges, because they are in direct violation of a court order. They are in contempt. And we have the right to to reenter this park legally. And constitutionally we have the right to assemble. And we will stay assembled until we reenter this park. End of story.NOOR: Demonstrators have been aided by legal groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights. Its president emiritus, Michael Ratner, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city of New York need to be held accountable for violating the court order.MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: And they're holding us up so far, and it's amazing to me because this is a court order from a Supreme Court judge. So essentially Mayor Bloomberg, the city, and the cops are violating a court order. They should--and I hope will be--held in contempt of court. But, you know, they consider themselves bigger than the court system.NOOR: Later in the afternoon another judge ruled the protesters be allowed into the park, but that they do not have a right to camp overnight with tents. Thousands of protesters returned shortly after dark Tuesday evening and held a general assembly to plan the movement's next moves. Justin Wedes, one of the original organizers of Occupy Wall Street, says the massive turnout shows activists remain committed and the movement is still going strong.JUSTIN WEDES, OCCUPY WALL STREET ORGANIZER: Well, in the two months that this thing has been happening, it's become about much more than just this space. But I think that the space has a lot of symbolic and nostalgic value for people here. It's where we began. It's a central, you know, hub for all of what we've done and, really, what's grown across the entire country. And so to be able to be back in this space, to be able to feel the energy here and to see the lights on, which were only on the first night for a very few minutes and then we never saw them again, is really incredible. I don't believe that it's all about this space. I really believe that we've grown into a new realm, where it's about more than just holding space. It's really about, you know, expanding, growing this movement, consolidating our resources and our demands, and taking action. But it's really beautiful to see this space nonetheless.NOOR: Nathan Schneider, an editor of the blog Waging Nonviolence, says though the occupation of Zuccotti Park launched the movement, its importance has decreased as the movement has grown.NATHAN SCHNEIDER, EDITOR, WAGING NONVIOLENCE: Well, the encampment was really what gave the movement its strength initially. It's incredibly important. I mean, 20,000 people march on Wall Street on May 12, and hardly anyone remembers that if you weren't there. What makes this different, what made a few hundred people camping out in Liberty Plaza or Zuccotti Park able to transform the national conversation about wealth, inequality, and corruption, is the fact that they stayed, they caused a disruption, they put the society, and especially the government of New York City, in a dilemma that forced them to listen to what was being said. Now, over the last few weeks, the occupation, the movement, has been developing in such a way that not all--most of the meetings, actually, don't take place or haven't been taking place on the plaza.NOOR: Occupy organizers like Wedes say despite the crackdown, they are expecting thousands to turn out on Thursday, when supporters will mark the movement entering its third month by attempting to shut down Wall Street.WEDES: What happened last night in the middle of the night, the cowardly, shameful moves by the mayor and Brookfield, have only re-energized, have only been a spark plug to this movement. And so this Thursday, the 17th, the mass direct action, shutting down Wall Street, will only be stronger, will only be firmer and more resolved because of what happened this morning.NOOR: Reporting for The Real News and FSRN, this is Jaisal Noor in New York.
End of Transcript
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