Last night, a few minutes before the clock struck twelve, a white-shirted NYPD officer in Union Square announced that the stagecoach Occupy Wall Streeters had been riding in for the past few days would turn back into a pumpkin. Kidding. He actually said that the location—which has a history of hosting political rallies since at least 1861 and emerged as the site of the latest occupation attempt over the last 72 hours or so—is being closed at midnight and that the 200 or so protesters must vacate the area or be arrested. Generally, public parks and squares in NYC close at 1AM (unlike POPS which must remain open 24/7), but it’s rarely enforced in places like Union Square. This time was different.
After numerous announcements, dozens of officers, including some from the department’s Counter Terrorism unit, quickly moved in a few minutes after 12AM and deployed barricades at the bottom of the south-facing staircase, forcing occupiers onto the sidewalk. One person, who refused to budge, was immediately taken into custody. Undeterred, occupiers just moved their banners, property and info table to just outside the new perimeter set up by the NYPD.
At around 1:45AM, protesters tested the integrity of the barricades by shaking them until they fell down like dominoes. Officers casually walked over and lifted the metal barriers back into position. Compared to the cops on Saturday night, this particular group was markedly less aggressive, although there was some tension when an officer put her hand over the lens of a credentialed journalist. He demanded her badge number and she just refused and turned her back on him. Eventually, a senior officer walked over to quell the situation, telling the photographer it’s “5647.”
But apart from that, the cops were mostly tempered. A few even cracked a smile when some protesters obnoxiously taunted them by dangling a donut on a string chanting, “Here piggy, piggy, piggy” and “No donut, no peace” as the crowd cheered. Not every OWS supporter, however, thought this was such a wise tactic. “I’m a big fan of the whole message… but ya know, to see people baiting cops into a fight, it belittles the movement,” chimed one demonstrator. Things died down for a few hours until officers told a handful of protesters that they were not permitted to sleep on the sidewalk, eliciting more jeers from the crowd. It’s being reported by NY1 that a total of eight people were arrested throughout the night and morning.
This latest eviction did not come as good news to many protesters who had enjoyed a few relatively peaceful days in Union Square and were hoping to use the space as a place to “heal” after the tumultuous time they had over the weekend. It also started to resemble a real occupation with cardboards signs getting made, food being served, music playing, and people sleeping. Even the “The Illuminator” van stopped by to shine its eye-catching “99%” projection on buildings in the area. Earlier that evening, the atmosphere was very festive and upbeat. “It’s got that happy vibe again,” said an occupier carrying a saxophone.
This morning, police removed the barricades and opened Union Square back up to the public and protesters, a handful of whom moved their yellow Occupy Wall Street banner and sleeping bags back to the same spot that was deemed unlawful only six hours earlier. During the daytime at least, this space will remain occupied. (Photos: @JoeyBoots)