A ring of police in riot gear stood guard around the perimeter of a dazzlingly clean and eerily empty Zuccotti Park in Manhattan last night, where 24 hours earlier there had been the beating heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement whose ideas had spread to dozens of cities around the world.
In a swoop executed with military precision in the dead of night, police had moved in to demolish the two-month-old protest camp, sending hundreds of angry people on to the streets of the city for what turned out to be a cat-and-mouse game that lasted most of the day.
Officers arrived without warning at 1am and demanded protesters leave the park with the tents, tarpaulins and other belongings that had threatened to become permanent fixtures through the winter.
While some residents of the camp left of their own accord, several dozen chained themselves together and to trees and were forcibly removed. Several hundred more, summoned by social networks, joined them in the streets throughout the night, but the New York Police Department blocked off access to the area, sometimes forming lines eight officers deep behind temporary barricades. In less than three hours, the police and sanitation workers had cleared the park completely and steam-cleaned the area.
More than 200 people were arrested during the operation and in the subsequent hours, as displaced protesters assembled, marched or ran through the nearby streets. Scores of people attempted to set up an alternative camp on a disused lot ten minutes north of Zuccotti Park, but more than 100 police officers swarmed the area.
The eviction came out of the blue, after Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the execution of a plan first drawn up several weeks ago. The Occupy Wall Street movement was two days shy of its two-month anniversary, and organisers had been planning to step up the protests with an early morning carnival outside the New York Stock Exchange, an occupation of the Subway and a march across Brooklyn Bridge.
The movement aims to highlight inequality and to protest against Wall Street and the bailout of US banks during the 2008 financial panic.Reuse content