Police brought the two-month-old Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park to an abrupt end early Tuesday morning, as hundreds of officers swept in and cleared out protesters and their tents.
About 200 protesters were arrested, including many who refused to leave. The raid sent others into the surrounding streets, setting off clashes and marches throughout Lower Manhattan.
Clashes as Park Cleared
Police blocked Occupy Wall Street protesters from entering Zuccotti Park Tuesday.
Following the Occupy Wall Street Protests
See key dates since the Occupy Wall Street protests began.
The incursion marked a dramatic turn in what had become a vexing saga for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but it wasn’t clear whether the eviction will end the protests or push them into a volatile new phase that is harder for police to control.
Hours later, the city and protesters were in court as a state judge considered whether to extend a temporary restraining order obtained after the city’s actions that prevents it from enforcing new park rules that prohibit tents, sleeping bags and other camping equipment.
The city, which had expected to reopen the park under the new rules on Tuesday morning, held off ahead of the judge’s decision, which was expected Tuesday afternoon.
As of noon, the park remained closed as hundreds of protesters gathered around the barricaded perimeter. Dozens of police officers guarded the inside of the park, while the surrounding office buildings were barricaded and only admitted employees.
A group of protesters staged an impromptu rally about a mile north of the dismantled encampment. Police responded and cleared the area, arresting several journalists along with protesters who barricaded themselves into a construction zone and disregarded orders to leave.
In Los Angeles, about 100 protesters split from the main Occupy LA encampment at about 1 a.m. Tuesday and marched through a downtown street in a show of unity with New York, according to the police and members of the Occupy LA movement. There were no arrests or use of force.
Ivan Adamsel, 18, said he has been camping outside Los Angeles City Hall for 43 nights. If the Wall Street occupiers end up evicted, he said, “That’s even more reason to stay here.”
Police brought the two-month-old Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park to an abrupt end early Tuesday morning, as hundreds of officers swept in and cleared out protesters and their tents. Andrew Grossman has details on Lunch Break.
Zuccotti Park was the birthplace and main stage of what has become a wave of nationwide protests targeting corporate bailouts and economic inequality. The dispersal of protesters in Lower Manhattan is the latest and most high-profile of a series of police crackdowns on encampments around the country.
Mr. Bloomberg, who canceled a planned trip to Washington Tuesday, quickly took responsibility for the eviction, saying in a statement released before dawn that the park’s owners had asked for the city’s help in enforcing its rules against sleeping there, but that “the final decision to act was mine.”
The New York City Police Department made its move shortly after 1 a.m., when hundreds of officers in riot gear surrounded the small, privately owned plaza. They turned on large batteries of lights. Some used bullhorns to warn those sleeping there that the area was being temporarily evacuated so it could be cleaned and cleared of illegal structures.
Word quickly went out on Twitter and via a text-message alert system that protesters maintained. Some officers walked through the park handing out fliers from the park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., that explained the eviction.
Police and sanitation workers moved through and swept away tents, piling them in the corner of the park. A large group of protesters remained seated with their arms linked together near the encampment’s kitchen. Stevie Bates, an 18-year-old protester from the Bronx, said she saw at least six people with U-shaped locks around their necks.
Ms. Bates, who said she was among those seated near the kitchen, described the protesters as peaceful and said she had offered some of the police officers cookies. She said an officer hit her with a club but she was not injured.
“They pushed me out of the park the whole way. All of my stuff is gone,” Ms. Bates said. “They didn’t give us any time…They trampled on us, completely trampled us.”
Billie Greenfield and Jeremy Letto, both 24 years old, hauled two tubs and several bags packed with their belongings past the World Trade Center as they walked away from the park.
WSJ’s Jess Firger reports from lower Manhattan on the dispersal by police of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who have been demonstrating in Zuccotti Park for nearly two months. AP Photo.
Mr. Letto, a resident of Bushwick, Brooklyn, said the two were in a tent talking when flood lights lit the park and police began giving orders. A police officer eventually came to their tent and read from prepared statement telling them to leave. The two decided to pack and head to Ms. Greenfield’s apartment on the Upper West Side to regroup.
“I just grabbed what I could,” Mr. Letto said. “If it was your intention to leave, they gave you enough time to leave. It was actually surprising how quickly they got it cleaned out.”
As the police line held back anyone who tried to enter the park during the raid, protesters raised their hands in the peace sign and held up cameras to film the encounter. Some heckled police and hurled insults at them. Others said officers were just following orders.
An hour after the raid started, most of the structures that had served as the foundation of a miniature city over recent weeks were dismantled by Department of Sanitation workers in green uniforms. The tents holding the library, media center, legal aid, information and sanitation areas were all broken down and placed into rolling trash containers.
As police dealt with holdouts, hundreds of others scattered into the streets of Lower Manhattan, setting off marches and skirmishes with police that extended as far north as Union Square. Helicopters hovered low and shone spotlights on marchers who filled normally quiet streets with chanting.
Occupy Wall Street protesters first gathered at the park on Sept. 17. What many expected to be a short-lived demonstration instead appeared to capture growing popular resentment against corporate bailouts and economic inequity. It soon grew into a movement that spread to other cities and led to raucous protests around the world.
Police in other cities have used sometimes violent methods to disperse crowds. But the encampment in New York had remained largely peaceful. After a few weeks, demonstrators were allowed to set up tents even though they violated the rules of the park.
Over the past months, Mr. Bloomberg has appeared conflicted over how to deal with the entrenched crowd. He has said he supports their right to free speech but didn’t support their methods or message.
The city was facing increasing pressure from neighbors, its own police department and others to shut down the encampment. An attempt by the city to remove protesters to clean the park last month was aborted under pressure from other elected officials.
This time around, the surprise raid left little time for politicians to dissent or protesters to prepare. By 5:30 a.m., an eerie calm had descended over Zuccotti Park, which just hours before had been home to a bustling, crowded society.
“Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags,” the mayor said. “Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
—Chad Bray, Joseph De Avila, Michael Amon, Aaron Rutkoff, Devlin Barrett, Sean Gardiner, Ethan Smith and Andrew Morse contributed to this article.
Want More Stories Like This?
Subscribe to our email list and get notified each time we release a breaking news story.