The battle for Zuccotti Park continues.
UPDATE: After a decision by a New York judge earlier this morning to allow Occupy Wall Street to continue in Zuccotti Park, the Bloomberg Administration has successfully lobbied New York Supreme Court, where a judge there has overruled this morning’s decision. Occupy Wall Street is now slated to be permanently evicted from Zuccotti Park, as many suspected was Bloomberg’s intention all along.
Late last night New York City took a que from the Oakland Police’s eviction of Occupy Oakland and descended on Wall Street with an envoy of 300 police to rid Zuccotti Park of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Dozens were arrested—reports vary between 75 and 200—as police rid the park of the tent city and its occupants and cleaners entered Zuccotti Park to administer the power-washing Mayor Bloomberg had been advocating for. As soon as Bloomberg announced plans last month to rid the park of occupiers so it could be cleaned on behalf of its owners Brookfield Properties, it was widely suspected that Bloomberg was using the mandatory cleaning as a ruse to orchestrate a permanent eviction.
Today that suspicion seems to have some merit. Early this morning, as the chaos of last night’s raid was still settling, New York judge Justice Lucy Billings signed a restraining order against the park’s owner Brookfield Properties barring them from “enforcing ‘rules’ published after the occupation began.” These “rules” include by-laws stipulating that no one camp or sleep in the park.
Bloomberg, who described himself last month as “the biggest defender of the First Amendment,” held a press conference this morning in which he said , “The First Amendment protects free speech. It does not allow people to use tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.”
But it appears there is some doubt about that. The judge’s restraining order seems to indicate that since Brookfield’s “no camping” rules were not enacted until after the occupation began, they can’t be legally enforced.
New York Daily News reports “Mayor Bloomberg said the city was trying to clarify the restraining order signed by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings, a former civil liberties lawyer. In the meantime, Zuccotti — which briefly reopened after a scrub-down — would be closed to the public.”
The whole incident underscores a point which Death and Taxes writer DJ Pangburn has been making for weeks: Occupy Wall Street’s rights to public park space now threaten to overshadow the politics of financial inequity and corporate pillaging of the middle class that it was created to address.
It may finally be time to try a different strategy. Perhaps the movement could use the internet to organize flash mobs and other types of demonstrations. Occupy Wall Street is decentralized by design—it could prove to be even more powerful if it were decoupled from the physical location of Zuccotti Park, sending a message that Occupy is now any-and-everywhere. The movement has harnessed the creative energies of a generation in ways we haven’t seen in decades—surely it’s creative enough to think outside the parameters of Zuccotti Park. The issues Occupy Wall Street was created to address are simply too important to be swallowed up by park politics.
If the judge’s ruling stands, however, for the time being Occupy Wall Street will be allowed to return to the park, and begin taking on a challenge wholly different from Bloomberg, but equally as formidable: winter.
[Image via Shutterstock]