Laurie Penny: I was almost arrested too – but Bloomberg's tactics can only galvanise protests

The only thing left behind from the camp was a large American flag. The NYPD have their superstitions

Share
Related Topics

On the corner of Liberty Plaza at 4am, members of the Occupy Wall Street protest watched, helpless, from behind a row of New York police officers, as their tents and belongings were shovelled into a rubbish van. They were surprised in the small hours of the morning, dragged out of their tents and arrested if they refused to leave the square which had been their home for months.

Blocked off by police, some of those protesters were now huddled in the doorway of an HSBC with the blankets they had managed to snatch, calling their friends, trying to locate those who had been arrested. Behind the barricades, you could see police feeding the entire intricate, beautiful mess of Occupy Wall Street into the teeth of an enormous waste compactor.

A few hours ago I was in the bustling heart of the Occupy Camp, deep in conversation over coffee and bread pudding with a group of animated young people. By 4am, a pile of rubbish was all that remained of the media tent, the drum circle, and the library with its 5,000 books. The two-month-old camp at Liberty Plaza, the heart of the global Occupy movement, has faced down eviction attempts before. This time, however, police struck without warning and in the middle of the night. A few hundred activists were curled up in their tents when riot police and sanitation workers stormed in and ordered them to leave immediately, with or without their belongings. In the sterile zone behind the police line, protesters were marched out of the square in ones and twos.

All of the bright, hand-painted signs and placards detailing their political discontents and visions for a fairer future were dumped in the rubbish piles. The only thing that was left, as all traces of dissent were scrubbed from the square, was a large American flag flapping in the early morning breeze. The NYPD can be persuaded to do a lot of things in the name of freedom, but they have their superstitions.

Accredited members of the press were refused access to the square and penned where it was impossible to see what was happening. Some were arrested; others had their press passes seized. I narrowly escaped arrest as I was escorted out of the secure zone for having the temerity to update my Twitter feed. At the intersection of Broadway and Pine Street, hundreds of angry protesters linked arms and chanted to stop one of the dump trucks leaving with their belongings. Then the NYPD moved in with batons to clear them away. By the time dawn broke over Manhattan, protesters were holding an impromptu general assembly in nearby Foley Square. Most had not slept and, as some dozed by the empty fountains, some resourceful soul organised breakfast for the shell-shocked.

As I write, that meeting is still ongoing – but whatever Occupy does next, Mayor Bloomberg's decision to evict the New York camp can only galvanise support for a movement whose momentum had begun to deflate.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Ellen E Jones
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution