On Tuesday night, shortly after a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that the tents that had sheltered the Occupy Wall Street movement could no longer remain in Zuccotti Park, defiant protesters streamed back into a park that many had last seen during a predawn police raid.
They sought to rekindle the energy that has sustained the movement, starting chants and swearing that this was not the end. They could mingle more freely in a park shorn of its small tent village and of the numerous stations that had offered everything from first aid to free books. A chill rain began to fall.
Brookfield Properties, the development company that owns the space, had argued in court that the protest was impeding their obligation to make Zuccotti Park acccessible to all, but metal barricades now encircled the entire park save a small entrance on one side. A sign affixed to the narrow opening offered a list of prohibited behavior, including camping and the erection of tents or other structures, lying on the ground, benches, sitting areas or walkways, and employing tarps or sleeping bags.
A Time of Uncertainty
Things are a little uncertain, especially considering the new rules for this park, said Mark Bray, a member of the movement's press working group. It remains to be seen but ultimately our point is the issue of economic justice and democracy, and we're continuing to get those out and to spread to appeal to more people throughout the city and the country. This is a platform for that, but ultimately the issues are the goal.
By Wednesday morning, the park's occupants had dwindled to a couple dozen people drinking coffee out of plastic cups. They appeared to be outnumbered by Brookfield employees who were patrolling the park in reflective yellow vests. A man who declined to give his name said 30 to 40 people had lingered before the rain led them to disperse. He awaited dawn in a nearby McDonald's.
The actual occupiers, I didn't see many of them last night. At least not that I could recognize, he said.
Another man shouted All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street, one of the movement's mantras. No one responded. Derek Brown, 44, who works in security, said that the raid had filtered out the unsavory and undesirable elements, the drifters and junkies that the city had increasingly portrayed as a public safety hazard. But he noted that the eviction had had the same effect for everyone.
When they reopened the park people took it as a victory, but I didn't, said Brown. In all actuality they pretty much crushed the occupy site and made a statement that if they can do it in the hub they can do it anywhere.
In the area where the library had formerly stood, librarian William Scott smoked a cigarette next to a few ziploc bags full of books that people donated since Tuesday morning. Scott said he planned to drive with other members of the library working group to midtown sanitation garage where the city had stashed the library's collection, along with any other possessions swept up in the raid.
By midmorning few of the occupiers had done the same. Iggy Terranova, a citywide community affairs officer standing outside the sanitation garage at a small table cordoned off by yellow caution tape, said that 17 people had arrived to claim their things. The four police officers standing behind him looked bored.
A woman emerged from the building emptyhanded. She identified herself as Heather Tarrant, 33, and said said she had been to find a sleeping bag and a sweater belonging to a friend who was sleeping in Zuccotti Park. She said the many of the items heaped up inside were soaking wet or stink like a garbage truck. She said the sanitation workers inside were dutifully sorting through the possessions.
They are trying to be accomodating but no one knows what's going on, Tarrant said. Despite not being able to locate her friend's things, she seemed undeterred about Occupy Wall Street's prospects, predicting that the loss of Zuccotti Park would be a motivation.
You can't run out a peaceful encampment in the middle of the night and steal everyone's belongings and throw them in garbage trucks and not think they're going to come out stronger, she said.