NYPD Riot Cops Remove Occupy Protesters from Union Square

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Common Dreams

NYPD Riot Cops Remove Occupy Protesters from Union Square

Occupy Wall Street takes on NYPD, calls for end to harrassment, brutality, and surveillance

by
Common Dreams staff

Police secure Union Square Park with metal barricades after midnight early Wedesday to prevent protesters from coming back in. (Sam Costanza for New York Daily News)

Following days of renewed activity after large 6-month anniversary rallies over the weekend, Occupy Wall Street is taking on the New York City Police Department head on by continuing to stage public protests, building encampments in public squares, and, on Tuesday, marching right to the steps of police headquarters to challenge aggressive police tactics and the culture of impunity perceived by many in the city.

A coalition of community organizations on Tuesday gathered to call for Commissioner Ray Kelly's resignation and demanding a criminal justice system that protects, rather than targets, the city's most vulnerable citizens. Specific incidents of misconduct stemming from Saturday night's crackdown near Zuccotti Park were highlighted, but also the long history of police brutality in the city that pre-date the Occupy movement by decades.

Meanwhile, NYPD officers in riot gear in the pre-dawn hours today stormed an Occupy encampment that had been established in Union Square. 

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The New York Daily News reports: Dozens of NYPD cops oust 300 Occupy Wall Street protesters from Union Square Park

Cops rousted about 300 Occupy Wall Street protesters camped out in Union Square Park early Wednesday. [...]

The demonstrators moved into the camp on Saturday, continuing the protest against economic inequality that started this summer in Zuccotti Park. [...]

Dozens of cops — some in riot gear — surrounded the park and ushered the protesters to the sidewalk.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Amanda DeRoller, 22, a protester from Harlem. "I don't understand why we can’t be here. Usually the park is open 24 hours. Now they want us out, because Bloomberg says so. It makes no sense."

The group quickly gathered to figure out their next move at an impromptu public meeting.

"No one is doing anything wrong," said Lina Cigno, 21, of Washington, D.C. "We just want a place to protest. They are trying to get us out."

After midnight, police barricaded the park to prevent them from returning as the crowd chanted, "We are here for you too! We know what it's like to work and not have enough to eat. We don't want to fight you!"

Cigno said the police had no justification for the eviction. "One girl was hitting her tambourine too hard?" she asked sarcastically. [...]

The crowd stood at the edge of the park chanting "Zuccotti is everywhere."

The Occupiers had hoped to set up a permanent encampment, like the one on Wall Street, from which to organize more protests. [...]

After midnight, police barricaded the park to prevent them from returning as the crowd chanted, "We are here for you too! We know what it's like to work and not have enough to eat. We don't want to fight you!"

Occupy Wall Street posted the following timeline on their website (all times Wednesday - 3/21):

6:07 AM: Park officially re-opened.
5:20 AM: via Twitter: ¨The NYPD have officially fled the scene of their crime.¨ Tonight, at least four people were arrested, books needlessly destroyed, and one woman knocked unconscious by police brutality -- all for the ¨crime¨ of laying down in a public park.

Occupier: ¨The rest of the country is going to see this in the morning!¨ Chant: ¨Oppress us, we multiply!¨
4:37 AM: Most police appear to be leaving in advance of the arrival of rush hour traffic when public wakes up. Occupiers return to park, laying down again. Chanting ¨goodbye!¨ at NYPD.
4:21 AM: Mainstream media on the scene. The District Attorney has also arrived. Union Square still blocked off. Police still moving Occupiers incrementally to allow sanitation to ¨clean¨ the park. Occupiers being slowly pushed out of the park. Occupier: ¨I really thought the police were going to be chill tonight about this. They were calm and rational earlier. Then they bumrush us, throw girl with head trauma around....¨
4:19 AM: Occupier: ¨The rest of the country is going to see this in the morning!¨ Chant: ¨Oppress us, we multiply!¨
4:10 AM: Heard on livestream: ¨Wake up [NYPD]; six months of beatings and we´re still here! We´re not going anywhere!¨
4:07 AM: Chanting: ¨You have no authority¨ at NYPD; ¨1 we are the people 2 we are united, 3 this occupation is not leaving!¨ Police officer seen with hand on pistol. Other police steal Occupier´s books and throw them away.
4:04 AM: EMT and medics approach woman knocked unconscious by police. Cops aggressively storm them, brutally rush into crowd, trample people, causing panic. People screaming. Peaceful protesters are being ATTACKED because they tried to give professional medical attention for head trauma! Injured woman was stepped on.
3:56 AM: Police rush the crowd, shoving and attacking people. Livestream briefly down, back up now. At least one person reported badly injured, now unconscious, after being grabbed and thrown to the ground by cops. Medics on the scene.
 

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The Guardian/UK: Occupy Wall Street joins communities in call for NYPD commissioner to quit

A rally on Tuesday increased the public pressure on Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD following a series of recent controversies over the policing of Occupy protests, surveillance of Muslim communities and the use of stop-and-frisk powers.

The rally was inspired by Saturday's mass arrest of at least 73 Occupy protesters in lower Manhattan. Many Occupiers have described the evening as one of the most violent police crackdowns since the movement began in September.

Occupy's response to the weekend's events was to call on communities who have also expressed frustration with NYPD policies and tactics. A further rally and mass action is planned for Saturday.

Tuesday's event began with a silent march from Foley Square to the NYPD's headquarters at One Police Plaza. [...]

After arriving at NYPD headquarters, juvenile justice activist Chino Hardin told the rally: "Real community safety does not begin with NYPD. It begins with the community. You wanna know how to keep us safe? Ask us!" A convicted felon, Hardin now works with the Center for New Leadership, an organization run by formerly incarcerated individuals.

Hardin targeted the department's widespread use of stop, question and frisk tactics. The controversial searches have increased over 600% in the last 10 years. Commissioner Kelly and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg say the stops keep weapons off the streets and save the lives of young men of color.

Critics say the practice is an institutionalized violation of fourth amendment rights that yields marginal results while disproportionately impacting the very group the mayor and commissioner say it protects.

"Yeah, I'm angry," Hardin added. "I'm angry because every time I look around there's a black or Latino boy or girl being illegally searched. Every time I turn on the news you portray us to be animals."

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, has been a vocal critic of the NYPD's recently-exposed practice of monitoring Muslim Americans based on religion. Sarsour called on Occupy Wall Street's supporters to, "stand up and say no. Stop spying and harassing and intimidating the Muslim community for being Muslim."

"I commit myself and our community to the Occupy Wall Street movement and look for your solidarity with our community," she said. [...]

Occupier Jose Whelan, agreed that the issue of police violence extends beyond the treatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters. On Saturday night, Whelan's arrest drew attention from around the country, as photos showed a massive crack in glass door that a police officer threw him into.

Whelan was arrested for disorderly conduct while standing on a public sidewalk in an incident witnessed by the Guardian. He was punched in the face multiple times. It came without warning, Whelan said.

"They just grabbed me and started punching me. Nothing like, 'You're under arrest.' Nothing like, 'Put your hands behind your back'."

Whelan sees the opposition to police violence described at Tuesday's event as an interconnected struggle that predates Occupy Wall Street by generations.

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Related: Occupy protesters accuse NYPD of beating activist during weekend clashes

Occupy protesters have accused New York police officers of beating a woman and then neglecting her when she suffered a seizure after being handcuffed.

Cecily McMillan was arrested on Saturday night as police removed scores of demonstrators from Zuccotti Park, formerly the base of the Occupy movement.

The case, and the weekend's violent clashes, have fueled allegations that the NYPD is adopting brutal and intimidatory tactics to prevent the Occupy movement taking ground in the city in the way it did last September.

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