Hundreds of New York police officers swarmed Zuccotti Park in the early hours of Tuesday morning, evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters and razing the encampment they had built there over two months.
About 70 people were arrested, NPR reported, and witnesses said police in riot gear used out batons and pepper spray at the park. At least three people have been reported injured in the evacuation.
Officers told the demonstrators that the site needed to be cleared and restored, a message echoed by a Twitter post by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office at 1:19 a.m. Police on-site would not answer questions about why the operation, if purely hygienic in intent, was conducted under cover of darkness and with the media prevented from covering the event up close.
The officers moved into the one-square-block park shortly after 1 a.m. Bloomberg's office sent out a Twitter post shortly after. Police told the Occupy protesters, some of whom had traveled from around the country and overseas to gather in Zuccotti Park, that any demonstrator resisting the evacuation would be arrested.
Force and Resistance
The Occupy demonstrators, about 200 of whom were staying in the park overnight, resisted. Whose park? they chanted as officers moved in, unceremoniously tearing down the tents and settlements where the protesters had gathered. Our park!
Some moved to the kitchen, an area in the middle of the camp where food is communally distributed. Gathering by signs instructing demonstrators on how to deal with possible arrests, the group began building barricades with tables and pieces of scrap wood, The New York Times reported.
Other protesters, and supporters who rushed to the scene, grouped outside Zuccotti Park, linking arms and shouting throughout the police raid. No retreat, no surrender! some called. This is our home! Barricade, barricade! Other shouted to officers to disobey their orders, and began to sign the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome.
Unconfirmed reports by those updating from Zuccotti Park say pepper spray has been broken out by the New York Police Department, and that some protesters and photographers at the Occupy camp have been sprayed.
String of Raids
The raid comes shortly after Occupy organizers sent out word that they planned to shut down Wall Street with a mass demonstration on Thursday. According to their Web site, the day was to include Mass, Non-violent Direct Action to Shut Down Wall Street at 7 a.m., Occupy the Subways in all five boroughs at 3 p.m. and Take the Square, referring to Foley Square, at 5 p.m.
The forced evacuation also comes some hours after an anti-Occupy demonstration at City Hall, where opponents of the movement complained to Occupy Wall Street's effect on local residents and businesses.
Some protesters grabbed their possessions on the way out, but others were unable to take personal belongings before police came in and began to remove the items and shove them into Dumpsters.
By 1:45 a.m., dozens of officers had moved through the park, some bearing plastic shields and helmets. At around 2 a.m, officers began using a vehicle equipped with a loudspeaker. City sanitation workers began tossing demonstrators' belongings into bins, while some protesters in the middle of the park began using bicycle chains to bind themselves to trees. Still others donned gas masks and goggles.
Several Occupy Wall Street protest encampments across the country have been cleared recently by police after problems have occurred, including ones in cities like Oakland, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore.
A handful of protesters first unrolled sleeping bags and blankets in Zuccotti Park on the night of Sept. 17, but in the weeks that followed, the park became densely packed with tents and small tarp villages.
Wall Street's Occupy protest has become the epicenter of a worldwide movement. Mayor Bloomberg has said in the past he respects the demonstraters' right to protest even if he disagrees with their position. As protesters recover from the mid-nigth raid, demonstraters are already gathering in Foley Square to regroup and begin the Wall Street takedown. We are holding Foley Square, #occupywallstreet, a Twitter user posted. It's safe here.
Below, watch video footage and see photos of the police raid on Zuccotti Park.
Police dismantle the Occupy Wall Street camp:
Police clear the street, push back reporters: