This morning at 1am New York time, the protesters in Zuccotti Park at the Occupy Wall Street movement were evicted in a surprise police raid. Approximately 200 were arrested, and the park is being cleared of all their trash, tents, generators, and other assorted stuff - much of it will be stored at a sanitation department garage in the city and will be able to be picked up by protesters later.
But that's not the most interesting part (though I am happy to hear that police finally got their act together and started enforcing the law). The most interesting part is that at about 6:30am EST, Judge Lucy Billings issued a temporary restraining order AGAINST New York's position that when the park reopens after cleaning, protesters will be allowed back into the park, but without camping equipment (sleeping bags, generators, tents). There is a hearing taking place right now (11:30am EST) to determine if the injunction will be upheld, but in the meantime, police have barricaded the park and are not allowing anyone inside.
The reason behind the raid is a string of "Lord of the Flies"-esque behaviors that have been popping up in the tent city (and other similar tent city protests across the country) in which people are getting sick (tuberculosis at Occupy Atlanta), getting hurt (an EMS worker in New York), being put in dangerous situations (rape and sexual assaults in numerous protest camps) and getting killed (suicide in Occupy Oakland). These makeshift cities are becoming slums and ghettos and are dangerous not only to the health and safety of the protesters, but restrict the free use of the parks by non-Occupy citizens and endanger the safety and health of people in the area. Last month, Occupy protesters shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, preventing the flow of traffic for a short time.
UPDATE 12:11 EST
This morning at some point, Trinity Church offered some of its land up for protesters to use while the Zuccotti Park legal issue is under way. Despite the court order to allow protesters to re-occupy the park, police still are barricading the area and not allowing protesters to return. This may be because the judge who issued the order, Lucy Billings, has been forced to recuse herself from hearing arguments on the TRO. It's a very interesting situation. I'm watching the live streams from the protesters right now online, and will keep updating this blog with major new developments.
UPDATE 2:04pm EST
Apparently Occupy Wall Street is not the only Occupy protest group being affected today by raids. Multiple sources report that San Diego, Portland, Berkeley, and now the Occupy Phoenix group are currently being raided by police as well. Arrests are being made in all locations, and camping gear is being tossed out. Just goes to show that squatting in public parks isn't okay for the homeless, and it isn't okay for protesters. Apparently Canadian Occupy protesters are also being evicted, but since it's Canada, no one cares. (Just kidding Canada... you're like a little cousin. We care on Christmas and birthdays.)
UPDATE 10:32am EST 11/16/2011
My final update on this post. At approximately 5pm New York time, the new judge assigned to hear and rule on the Occupy Wall Street protester's demand to be allowed to camp in Zuccotti Park ruled against OWS. He said in his decision that the OWS protesters did not show sufficient cause to prevent him from keeping park rules enforced. Protesters were allowed to return to the park beginning around 7pm EST, but were not allowed to bring in tents, sleeping bags, or large bags or backpacks. People who were lying down and trying to sleep in the park were woken up and removed. Interestingly, all of the live streaming video which has been active for two months now has been shut down for OWS on both LiveStream and UStream, and the Occupy channels are now replaying video of the eviction in lieu of live broadcasting. I believe this may be because there are now so few protesters actually back in the park that the OWS leadership no longer wishes to show the broken protest right now. In other areas, Occupy Berkeley protesters retook their squatting area with more sleeping bags and tents (to the delight of corporate tent- and sleeping bag-makers), vowing to remain steadfast. Occupy Phoenix raids turned out to be no more than catch-and-release efforts for people who were sleeping in the park, and a few tents and things got removed as "abandoned" property. Other cities also got crackdowns, but as of this morning, there was no major news that I found about any of them. Oh, and Canada: evictions, crackdown, something, something. (We love you, Canada! Really!)
OWS has vowed to try to reimagine their protest strategy. I read one article talking about how protesters were getting so much more concerned with maintaining their camp that their political agenda was falling by the wayside and their message was being lost. Perhaps this will, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it, force protesters to "occupy [Zuccotti Park] with the power of their ideas" as opposed to their tents. We shall see.