Today we were in lower Manhattan and decided to drop in on Zuccotti Park, lately the home of the Occupy Wall Street gang. You can find it in the financial district, very close to the location of the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial.
Zuccotti Park has a sign that says “Open to the public” but, ironically, it was totally blocked off from public access by temporary fencing — presumably because it was being cleaned by a guy riding a street sweeper machine — and there was a significant police presence in the immediate area. The area also featured a decorated Christmas tree and lots of holiday lighting, rather than tents, so it didn’t bear any resemblance to the encampment of protesters that was the subject of so much media attention.
Still, we could make a few observations. First, Zuccotti Park is not really much of a “park.” Instead, I would call it a plaza. It’s almost entirely covered with concrete and stone, with stone benches and a few trees. It couldn’t have been a comfortable place to camp, or sleep. Second, it’s much smaller than I thought it would be — a small square, really. It’s hard to imagine it was the site of dozens of tents, a working chow line, and so forth.
The Occupy Wall Streeters appear to be largely gone from their former headquarters, although I did see a few people with signs — including one guy who seemed to be protesting Occupy Wall Street and what its leaders had done with the money they received in contributions.
New York City sanitation workers have been sifting through the debris removed from Zuccotti Park when the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters were evicted by police — and in the process are helping to flesh out the tale of the protests.
In all, 26 dump trucks of material was removed from the park. (Twenty-six dump trucks! The protesters must have been doing some serious accumulating and consuming.) The people charged with sorting through the pile of refuse found at least two dozen hypodermic needles, rotted food, discarded personal belongings, and lots of broken glass. There was so much broken glass mixed in with the other items that workers had to stop protesters looking for their stuff from sifting through the debris pile, so as to avoid injury.
Life at Camp Zuccotti sounds like it was pretty dangerous and dreadful in the days before the police closed it down. I wonder how many of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters secretly were relieved when the police took action, so the protesters had an excuse to leave the squalor and go back to their parents’ suburban homes for a hot shower, a hot meal, and a good night’s sleep?
Overnight New York City police cleared Zuccotti Park, home to the Occupy Wall Street protesters. According to the police, the decision was precipitated by health and fire safety concerns and allegations of criminal activity — the same issues that seem to have plagued the OWS camps elsewhere.
From news reports, it appears that most of the protesters left peacefully, although a number of them resisted and were arrested. Some of the protesters chained themselves to trees and other objects in the park. After the park is cleared of all of the tents, tarps, and debris and restored to its original condition, protesters apparently will be allowed back — but not allowed to stay overnight or set up an encampment.
After the last protesters are removed this morning, three questions will remain to be answered. First, will the OWS protests continue with the Zuccotti Park semi-permanent headquarters closed down? Second, what kind of stuff was found in the debris removed from the park? And third, who gets the thousands of dollars that apparently were contributed in support of the OWS protests?
Edited to add: A judge has upheld the city’s decision to evict the protesters and to refuse the erection of tents and other structures in the park.