At 1 a.m. Tuesday, police officers handed out eviction notices to Occupy Wall Street protesters in lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park. Soon after, officers in riots gear descended on the park to clear out the Occupiers. According to Police Commisioner Ray Kelly, nearly 200 people were arrested overnight, including many who tried to stay by linking arms in the middle of the park. Police reportedly attempted to impose a media blackout on the eviction, with numerous journalists blocked off from the area, roughed up, and even arrested. By early afternoon Tuesday, the park remained closed, as OWS and the city awaited a court decision as to whether protesters, and their tents, should be allowed to return to Zuccotti. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision to evict the protesters by saying it was necessary to protect the health and safety of protesters and neighbors. "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," he said. Was he right to order the eviction?
Yes. It was about time: "Bloomberg's forced cleansing of Zuccotti Park nearly two months into an unsanitary and sometimes dangerous encampment was just what the doctor had been ordering," says the New York Daily News in an editorial. The aimless protest had transformed a public space into a "round-the-clock shantytown." Occupiers are free to protest, but their constitutional rights do not include claiming every inch of a public park as their home, setting up generators, littering, and loudly drumming into the night. Their political convictions do not entitle them "to the privilege of behaving obnoxiously."
"Bravo to Bloomberg's Occupy Wall Street eviction from Zuccotti Park, finally reclaiming public space from unsanitary shantytown"
No. The NYPD really blew it: What "a disgraceful display of unnecessary force on a protest that for the most part has behaved lawfully and respectfully," says James Downie in The Washington Post. The fact the the NYPD tried to block all press from covering the conviction is especially disturbing, and was totally unjustified, no matter what your view of the protests. "This morning's action may not be what a police state looks like, but it's certainly how one begins."
"Bloomberg's disgraceful eviction of Occupy Wall Street"
Bloomberg inadvertently did the movement a favor: "Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg," says Justin Krebs at WNYC. "You may have given the Occupy Wall Street movement — which you disdain" — "a boost of energy that time, weather and attrition had severely threatened." The "cowardly" manner in which the mayor cleared out the park "made him a perfect villain" and served as a stark reminder that not only is the billionaire politican a defender of the 1 percent, he "is the 1 percent." Bloomberg really re-energized and fortified the movement. "The mayor could have kept it contained; now, he's opened a Pandora's Box that could send actions and confrontations a thousand directions."
"Opinion: Bloomberg's removal of OWS will galvanize Occupy everywhere"
Editor's note: Since this article was published, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that the city has the right to keep protesters from camping out in the park. OWS will likely appeal the ruling, and it remains unclear whether the city will re-open Zuccotti Park and allow protesters without tents in the area.