“This shows that it is illegal to express your opinion”
Protesters speak on Occupy Wall Street eviction
Sandy English and Clare Hurley
16 November 2011
New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, mobilized hundreds of heavily armed New York City police officers in a cowardly attack early Tuesday to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan’s financial district. The protesters had been camped there since September 17. (See, “New York City police raid Occupy Wall Street camp”).
Some observers believe that the encampment was raided Tuesday because of a call by occupiers to shut down activity on Wall Street on Thursday as a part of a coordinated protest across the city.
According to Ellis, a protester from Pennsylvania, who spoke to the World Socialist Web Site later in the morning, “Basically, at about 1:10 a.m., we got a tip from the news guys that the cops were coming to take down the encampments. They set up barricades and made everyone sit down. They had an LRAD [(Long Range Acoustic Device), an intense noise-producing crowd control weapon] there, but they didn’t use it. Around 3:00 AM they started with the arrests.”
Some 200 occupiers were arrested, in the park and nearby streets, mostly for disorderly conduct or resisting arrest. A smaller number of protesters barricaded themselves inside structures, and a group of ten chained itself together to resist removal. According to witnesses who spoke to the WSWS, some of those chained together were pepper sprayed by police and unable to treat themselves because of their immobility.
Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site spoke to occupiers and other protesters in Foley Square, Duarte Park, and outside Zuccotti Park.
At Foley Square, Joseph from Harlem, an occupier who was expelled on Tuesday morning, said, “Last night was crazy. I had everything thrown in a dumpster. The cops laughed at me when I asked if I could get it. My stuff, my whole life, basically became garbage. The 99 percent is just like me. You get fired and you lose everything.”
Brian, an unemployed young man from Syracuse, New York, told us, “I came out this morning to show my solidarity. I’m sad and I’m angry. And I’m hopeful that it may lead to a wider movement. Bring this movement to the neighborhoods—I would like to see that so much.
“I identify myself as a socialist or an anarchist, and I think that capitalism is dooming itself in the longer term. Historically, people are only willing to put up with so much. I think the police and the politicians don’t understand this movement. They were very tactically smart, evicting people in the early hours of a weekday, but I don’t think they understand what kind of a fight they’ve got on their hands now. Social inequality is horrible.”
Randy, from New Jersey, had come to an Occupy protest for first time. “I heard what happened and I want to get involved,” she said. “I need to know how to be effective. The eviction of these people goes against my conscience. What is the best recourse now? Look at the unfairness of society, the lack of opportunities for everyone, and especially minorities. Life is supposed to be getting better and better. We have to stand up for our rights.
“The Democrats are the same party as the Republicans. There are no real changes. I’m not sure if this is because of the system or just personal dishonesty. If voting was effective, it would be illegal. This shows,” Randy said, gesturing at the occupiers who had been expelled, “that it is illegal to express your opinion.”
Russell, a California native in New York to study acting, joined the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest three days ago. He was at Zuccotti Park last night when police moved in to evict the protesters. Although he was prepared to be arrested, the police escorted him off. Others weren’t so lucky, and he saw police throw a girl to the sidewalk. Russell told us, “We are fighting for people to acquire knowledge of the situation we are in, to educate people in economic injustice.” He plans to stay with the occupation indefinitely.
Laura Kolnick, from Canada, has been taking part in the OWS protests for the past three weeks, and was among those evicted last night. A college graduate, she called herself a full-time protester. She considered the key issue motivating the movement to be social inequality.
“We need to be working towards a society of the 100 percent,” she said, “one in which everyone in society has an equally valid voice, not necessarily the same voice, but equally valid.” She doubts that such equality is possible under capitalism, and is studying the alternatives.
Ann Shirazi, a retired social worker has come to the OWS encampment as often as possible from the beginning, except when she had to babysit her grandchildren. “This movement has been a long time coming, and it is amazing how in such a short period it has awakened people from a truly dead state.
“I feel privileged to be a part of a movement of young people of such creativity and intelligence. Economic times have changed—these kids can’t pay for college, can’t pay back their loans, can’t find jobs. They are confronting incredible inequality in a way that their parents’ generation didn’t have to. The ‘Me-generation’ is over with. We need to develop a socialist point of view, it has been marginalized for too long.”
She was highly critical of Barack Obama, noting that he might be better-looking and smarter than George Bush but, if anything, his policies were worse. “Immediately after he took office, what did Obama do, but start bombing Pakistan with predator drones. There is no such thing as a ‘lesser of two evils’ when both parties are representing the same class interests.”