The end of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York's Zuccotti Park came swiftly, loudly and under the cover of night. Without warning, the New York Police Department swooped down early Tuesday (November 15) morning on the protester camp in the city park and ordered its residents to clear out or face arrest.
The squatters, who had occupied the park since September 17 in a protest against economic inequality in the U.S. that helped spark a national and international movement, were told that the camp was to be "cleared and restored" by morning and that they could return at a later time.
According to The New York Times the 200 protesters who remained in Zuccotti (which they'd renamed "Freedom Park") initially resisted the police action and met officers with chants of "whose park? Our park!" But as police moved in and began tearing down tents and removing the encampment, the occupiers retreated to a central area and tried to barricade themselves behind tables and scraps of wood.
The effort to clear out the public park in began around 1 a.m. and though dozens of occupiers left over the next few hours, a number refused, locking arms and ignoring police orders to evacuate. Two hours into the action helmeted officers moved in and pulled the remaining squatters out one-by-one and handcuffed them, with more than 70 arrested in the action. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office Tweeted about the removal around 1:19 a.m., saying, "Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protesters can return after the park is cleared." Bloomberg, who was scheduled to discuss the action on Tuesday morning, later issued a statement explaining the action.
"I have become increasingly concerned -- as had the park's owner, Brookfield Properties -- that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community," Bloomberg said. "We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park. But make no mistake -- the final decision to act was mine."
Even as Bloomberg ordered the park cleared, he noted that protesters would still be able to gather there, but would be banned from setting up tents and sleeping bags. Residents of the area and workers who travel through the perimeter of the park have been complaining for weeks that the occupation has interrupted their lives due to noise, congestion and the barricading of sidewalks.
"Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags," Bloomberg said. "Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments." In addition to international headlines, the protests drew the attention of a number of celebrities who came down to the camp to visit and get a glimpse at the movement. Among the artists who made their way to Zuccotti over the past few months are Talib Kweli and Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Susan Sarandon, Tom Morello, folk icon Pete Seeger, actor Mark Ruffalo, film maker Michael Moore, Joan Baez, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Russell Brand and Russell Simmons.
The move in New York comes as other cities have begun cracking down on Occupy protesters, with police in Oakland, Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon forcefully taking action against the sit-ins. According to My Fox New York, some occupiers moved to another city park around 10 blocks north of Zuccotti on Tuesday morning, setting up shop in Foley Square. The new location is just blocks from City Hall.