It looks like a stalemate at Zuccotti Park. The NYPD cleared out the Occupy Wall Street rabble last night, but they found a very friendly judge to issue a restraining order, and now the protesters and cops are eyeballing each other warily across the blasted wasteland that used to be a park. The Associated Press reports:
Hundreds of police officers in riot gear before dawn Tuesday raided the New York City park where the Occupy Wall Street protests began, evicting and arresting dozens of protesters from what has become the epicenter of the worldwide movement with other cities, such as Dallas and London likely to follow suit.
Hours later, the National Lawyers Guild obtained a court order allowing the protesters to return with their tents to the park, where they have camped for two months. The guild said the injunction prevents the city from enforcing park rules on the protesters who are now looking for squatters rights, despite park rules banning camping overnight.
At least the authorities had a chance to pressure-wash away that unique Occupier stink, which I can testify from first-hand experience in Denver lives up to its hype:
By 9 a.m., the park was power-washed clean by sanitation workers. Police in riot gear ringed the public space, waiting for orders to reopen it.
Hundreds of protesters spent the morning marching outside a barricaded Zuccotti Park carrying copies of the court order while chanting “Whose park? Our park.”
The city told protesters they could come back after the cleaning, but under new tougher rules, including no tents, sleeping bags or tarps, which would effectively put an end to the encampment if enforced.
“The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day,” Bloomberg said. “Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else.”
It’s easy to sympathize with the Occupiers in one respect: they’re getting really exasperated with having to repeatedly explain to clueless liberal city officials what “occupy” means. It is an inherently violent and coercive act that does not involve making the occupied space available to anyone else.
While the Occupy foot soldiers spent the day marching around New York and chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, our billionaire mayor has got to go,” the leadership went shopping for a judge and found Justice Lucy Billings, profiled in Capital today:
Billings has taken on the city before. In her first race, she trumpeted her work in the class action suit N.Y.C. Coalition to End Lead Poisoning v. Giuliani, which eventually forced the city to clean up the lead paint it was sand-blasting off bridges. Later, as a judge, she issued the opinion that stymied Rudy Giuliani’s crackdown on street artists outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which drew the predictable ire from the New York Post.
“Thanks to Mayor Giuliani’s quality-of-life program, New Yorkers no longer have to step over quite so many vagrants in order to enjoy the greenery of New York’s parks or the aesthetic stimulation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” the paper wrote in a 1998 editorial. “Unfortunately, thanks to Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Lucy Billings, they might now find themselves navigating their way around hordes of self-described ‘artists’ who think it’s appropriate to liken politicians they oppose to Hitler.”
And she has been a frequent critic of the police. According to her bio as vice-chair of the Judicial Section of the New York County Lawyers’ Association: “In 2002, Judge Billings moderated the Civil Rights Committee’s forum on ‘Terrorism and the Constitution.’ In 2003, the committee won the Klaus Eppler Prize for the committee’s Report on the Electronic Recording of Police Interrogations.”
Billings was excluded from the pool of judges for presiding over a hearing on the restraining order, as the New York Daily News notes “she usually handles real estate cases.” This case seems like it’s all about “real estate,” but presumably Billings usually hears the kind of case that involves people paying money to purchase property, rather than occupying it by force.
CNN reports on the hijinks that ensued back at Zuccotti Park once the court order was issued:
Soon after the ruling, a large group of demonstrators — some of them apparently holding the court documents — marched back to Zuccotti Park and presented the documents to police.
“We have a court order,” the group chanted, as it wielded signs and circled the Lower Manhattan park. “You don’t have authority over a judge,” they yelled at police.
At least two people were seen jumping over a metal barricade before they were forcibly removed by authorities.
Video of the park showed security officers picking up one protester and tossing the individual over the fence.
I wonder if the next Winter Olympics will include the New York Freestyle Hippie Toss. Would that really be more bizarre than curling?
While we’re waiting for this little standoff at Zuccotti Park to break up, it would be hilarious if some other group rushed into the park and “occupied” it before the Occupiers got back. Even if it was just for a little while, the confrontation between the baffled Occupiers and the group that skunked them would make for some incredible video.
Update: the court hearing over the restraining order did not go the Occupiers’ way. The Mayor’s action has been upheld, and the protesters will no longer be allowed to bring tents or sleep in the park.