Judge backs city's ban on Occupy Wall Street protesters' tents at Zuccotti
Protesters will likely appeal ruling
BY Matthew Lysiak , Rich Schapiro , Christina Boyle & Tracy Connor
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Originally Published: Tuesday, November 15 2011, 8:29 AM
Updated: Tuesday, November 15 2011, 5:02 PM
Hours after baton-wielding cops cleared Occupy Wall Street protesters and their tents from
Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, a judge backed the clean sweep.
The ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman says that city can stop protesters from bringing tents, tarps and other camping equipment into the park.
The decision is likely to be appealed, so it was unclear if the city would immediately reopen the park to people without tents.
Some Occupy Wall Street protesters had already moved to another public space, owned by Trinity Church, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., where they used bolt cutters to open a fenced-in area.
Police swooped in and made numerous arrests. Daily News reporter Matt Lysiak was among several reporters covering the confrontation who were arrested.
Other demonstrators were massed around Zuccotti, where the overnight raid netted the arrest of 200 people, including Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
The park was eerily clean and empty. The only people inside were employees of property owner Brookfield Properties, which asked for the city crackdown in a Monday letter to Mayor Bloomberg.
About 50 people had been allowed back in at 8:10 a.m. — before the NYPD closed the park again until the fast-developing legal issues could be sorted out.
A handful jumped the fence to get into the park around 11:30 a.m. and several were arrested.
“They are in contempt of court,” said Wes Trexler, a musician from Bushwick, Brooklyn, complaining that the city didn’t immediately comply with the temporary court order.
“Whose park? Our park!” protesters chanted. “They stole our freaking tents from the 99%!”
“That was my home,” said Shane Stoops, 23, an occupier from Seattle who said he had been at Zuccotti since the dawn of the protest Sept. 17.
“You see all those garbage trucks? That’s where I live now. They took my life... all my clothes, my four-man tent and mattress, all of my books and three years of drawings.”
Bloomberg said it was his call to move in on the protesters following reports of lawlessness and the injury of an EMS worker trying to assist a mentally ill man.
“The final decision to act was mine, and mine alone," he said at a press conference.
"We could not wait for someone in the park to get killed or injure another person before acting.”
He said the city planned all along to let the anti-greed movement return to Zuccotti as soon as it was cleaned — without the trappings of the tent city.
But lawyers for Occupy Wall Street got Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings, a former ACLU lawyer, to sign an order at 6:30 a.m. that explicitly said they should be allowed in with “tents and other property.”
“We called her. She came and signed the papers,” said lawyer Daniel Alterman, refusing to say why they zeroed in on Billings.
“They trampled on the Constitution. They tossed it in the garbage,” he added, likening the mayor to “a small rodent.”
A hearing on the temporary order was held before Justice Michael Stallman, who was chosen at random by computer to handle the case.
The city argued that Zuccotti had become a threat to public safety, rife with crime and fire hazards. The protesters said banning tents would infringe upon their First Amendment rights.
“The power of this symbolic speech is that it's a 24-hour occupation. This conveys a special message," said OWS lawyer Allan Levine.
Stallman said he would issue a written ruling.
Officials said if the city and Brookfield prevail in court, security will stop anyone from entering the park with tents or tarps.
“They will not be allowed to lie down,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
If OWS emerges from the hearing with a victory, protesters could theoretically start rebuilding the tent village, which was equipped with a kitchen, media area and first-aid facility.
The operation to dismantle the encampment began around 1 a.m. when hundreds of cops surrounded the park and used a bullhorn to notify protesters that sanitation trucks would be clearing out the site.
“If you fail to immediately leave the park, you will be subject to arrest," they said.
The protesters were defiant at first, chanting: "Whose park? Our park! No retreat. No surrender!"
"When the cops closed in, people tried to hold on to one another. Cops pulled people out, but we went back in," said Jose Mediaville, 29, a former Marine from Brooklyn. "A white shirt got frustrated. He yelled, 'Come on, let's do this.'
"I tried to avoid them, but they got me. They smashed people in the hands and broke the human chain. They lifted me up and threw me out like a rag doll," he said.
Police began tearing up the tents after throwing reporters out of the park and corralling the protesters in the center.
"Everybody stay calm, the police want you to become violent," protesters shouted. "Do not become violent. Pass the message."
One protester, 32, who gave his name as Daryl W, called his mother. "We're about to be raided I just thought I'd let you know I love you bye," he said.
Some protesters sang the Beatles song "Revolution." Helicopters flew noisily overhead.
"I have not broken the law tonight," yelled Eamon O'Rourke as cops stuffed him into a squad car.
Paul Kostora, head of the medical tent, said he was working with a patient when police pulled him away.
"They pulled me out stethoscope, white coat and all as I was telling them I have a patient in there," he said. "One girl has a heart condition and wasn't feeling well. They manhandled her and threw her on the ground."
Rodriguez, the councilman, was among 28 protesters arrested at Broadway and Cortlandt St. at 1:45 a.m. for allegedly trying to get past barricades and back to Zuccotti.
“The City Council member was arrested and bloodied,” said protest lawyer Yetta Kurland. “He was cut on his face.”
By 3:30 a.m., cops had cleared the kitchen area of the park, where protesters had formed a human chain, cuffed those arrested with plastic ties and loaded them in vans.
Cleaning crews then scrubbed and scraped every flat surface of the park.
A few hours later, iron worker Mike Dalton, 40, reporting to work at the Freedom Tower, marveled at the transformation.
“It’s nice to see the floor of the park again. Protesting is one thing but it turned into squatting,” said the Mineola, L.I., hardhat.
The Tuesday morning showdown came after protesters had vowed to "shut down Wall St." on Thursday to mark two months of occupation.
"It's still on. It'll be bigger than ever. People are mobilizing now. They're wounded now and preparing for comeback," said Matt Baldwin.
With Tina Moore, Matthew Lysiak, Jennifer H. Cunningham, Rocco Parascandola, Erin Einhorn, Kerry Wills, Joe Kemp and Barbara RossWhat the OWSers don't understand is that Zucotti park is PRIVATE PROPERTY. The second the owners, in this case Brookfield Properties, asks them to leave they MUST leave. If not, they're tresspassing, and Brookfield has every legal right to send in the cops to arrest them.
Some of the public spaces various OWS protest groups have occupied make things more complicated, but Brookfield has the same rights on Zuccoti park that I do with people in my front yard. When I say get, you get.