Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Zuccotti Park Before and After NYPD Raid

Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan is the birthplace of the Occupy protest movement that has swept across America and the world demanding a more sustainable and fairer economic system.

Last month I visited Occupy Wall Street at its height. This was when the unions had joined up with young students and aging hippies to create a spirited and festive community full of lively debates about the future of American democracy. The diverse group of citizens who pitched tents and displayed cardboard signs were an inspiration to millions of us who are deeply concerned that corporate greed and political paralysis are endangering the American dream.

This joyous moment didn't last long because last week Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the New York Police Department to clear out Zuccotti Park because of "health and safety concerns."  The NYPD raided Occupy Wall Street unannounced in the middle of the night and completely removed the encampment, even using force at times against those that resisted the removal.

I visited the post-OWS Zuccotti last weekend. It has now been turned back into the boring block of concrete it always was instead of the democratic revival, the city of hope and change it had been turned into. It was a surreal scene last Saturday afternoon. Community police officers lined the perimeter of the barricaded park. There was one entry point I could see and the police were in an argument over demonstrators not being allowed to bring in drums. There seemed to be a lot of confusion and anger over what was allowed and not allowed in the park.

Once inside it got even more surreal as a swarm of media and tourists centered in the middle of the park surrounded one Occupier talking to a camera crew.

There were a few leftover signs and I recognized one of the folk musicians from a couple of weekends ago when it was a festive, spirited atmosphere. He was still playing 60s anthems but his partner was missing. There were a handful of young people listening intently to his version of Buffalo Springfield's 1967 song "For What It's Worth."

Another guy was giving away Occupy Wall Street buttons. A memento from a brief moment of hope and joy when anything seemed possible. I took a button that summed it all up for me. It said "You can't evict an idea." Yep.

Here are photos and videos of Zuccotti Park before and after the Occupy Wall Street encampment.