Down but not out: OWS reclaims Zuccotti (VIDEO)
Tuesday evening’s chants of “all day, all week, occupy Wall Street” cut a sharp contrast with the chaos which had unfolded earlier that day. Acting on orders from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hundreds of police raided and dismantled the park encampment located in the heart of New York’s financial center, arresting 147 people in the process.After New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman found the city was justified in enforcing a ban on sleeping in the square-block park, some 16 hours after the eviction was carried out, police lifted the barricades and slowly began to allow the protestors back in. Unlike the preceding chaos which ushered in the day, Tuesday evening’s return was underscored by a sense of hope, as the sound of drums punctuated the intermittent chants. As a clearly distraught young man in plastic cuffs seemingly fought back tears as he waited to be put into a police wagon, his arrest appeared to be the exception rather than the rule. Sgt. Shamar Thomas, made famous after a fiery OWS sermon condemning police violence went viral on the internet, also made an appearance. Carrying a sign which read "There is no honor in police brutality" on one side and “end all war” on the other, he was met with cheers from the crowd as he extolled those gathered to “come in the park.”However, as police strictly directed traffic in and around the park, one woman was aggressively pushed by an officer while asking another officer about an entrance that had been closed.His action was met with repeated calls of “shame” by onlookers. The movement, which began on September 17 to protest an economic system which demonstrators argue favors the wealthy at the expense of the remaining 99 per cent, has definitely hit a roadblock, as cities from coast to coast implemented a coordinated crackdown on OWS demonstrations.While evictions in Atlanta, Oakland and Portland were carried out with the use of tear gas and stun grenades, protestors in New York got a somewhat more civilized treatment. But despite being less heavy-handed, Bloomberg ultimately struck a harder blow with his decision to evict the protestors two days before they planned to shut down the New York Stock Exchange.And while demonstrators Tuesday continued to chant “the people, united, can never be defeated”, it remains to be seen how well the movement will fair now that the authorities have decided to really fight back.
‘Ban on camping out overnight will not stop people’
Alex Vitale, an associate professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College in New York, believes that the ban on camping out overnight will not stop people from continuing their campaign.
“What we see going on all around the world right now, from the Red Shirt movement in Thailand to Walk-to-Work movement in Uganda, Indignados in Southern Europe. There is a lot of discontent about declining standards of living, the squeezing of the middle class, degradation of the environment. I think that in some ways the US is just late to the game.”
According to Vitale, a lot of what is going on now in the US is really a battle over the first amendment that guarantees the right of free speech and assembly.
“That right has really been constrained over the recent years with all kinds of time, place and manner restrictions.”
The professor believes that the determination of young people to make their voices heard is important and not likely to go away soon.
“One of the things that is remarkable about this movement is the kind of defiant attitude of the generation of young people who actually take the language of the First Amendment to heart and aren’t willing to abide by these various kinds of restrictions. That is the kind of defiant attitude that both made the demonstrations powerful and inspired so many, but has also engendered this level of police back-lash”.