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(Updated Nov. 18) Occupy Wall Street: `You cannot evict an idea whose time has come' -- Huge demos support OWS Nov. 17


November 18, 2011 -- Democracy Now! coverage of the November 17 day of action in support of the Occupy movement. Click here for transcript and more coverage.

Scroll down for earlier reports. For more on the Occupy movement, click HERE.

November 18, 2011 -- Occupy Wall Street --

On the November 17 Day of Action in New York, to mark two months since the Occupy Wall Street camp began and coming just two days after violent eviction of campers from Liberty Park in Manhattan, there was:

  • More than 30,000 people' rallied in New York City (NYPD estimated 32,500), including organised contingents of workers, students and other members of “the 99%”.
  • Actions in at least 30 cities across the country and around the world.
  • A commemoration of two-months since the birth of the 99% movement with a festival of lights on the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • A blockade of all entry points to the New York Stock Exchange; hundreds participated in non-violence civil disobedience.
  • A sense that a powerful and diverse civic movement for social justice is on the ascent.

Tens of thousands took action on November 17 to demand that our political system serve all of us — not just the wealthy and powerful. The NYPD estimated tonight’s crowd at 32,500 people, at the culmination of the day of action.

Thousands more also mobilised in at least 30 cities across the United States. Demonstrations were also held in cities around the world.

"Our political system should serve all of us — not just the very rich and powerful. Right now Wall Street owns Washington", said participant Beka Economopoulos. "We are the 99% and we are here to reclaim our democracy."

New York led the charge in this energising day for the emerging movement. In the wake of billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pre-dawn raid of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Square, 1 am, November 15, thousands of people throughout the five boroughs and the greater region converged to take peaceful action.

After Bloomberg’s action, the slogan “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come” became the new meme of the 99% movement overnight. The mobilisation today proved that the movement is on the ascent and is capable of navigating obstacles.

The day started at 7am with a convergence of a few thousand people on Wall Street. All entry points to the New York Stock Exchange were blockaded. "People's mics" broke out at barricades, with participants sharing stories of struggling in a dismal and unfair economy.

Through the course of the day, at least 200 people were arrested for peaceful assembly and non-violent civil disobedience, included city council member Melissa Mark Viverito, city council member Jumaane Williams, Workers United International vice-president Wilfredo Larancuent, SEIU International president Mary Kay Henry, SEIU 1199 president George Gresham, CWA vice-president Chris Shelton, CWA vice-president, Fr. Luis Barrios of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis, and many others.

"All the cops are just workers for the 1%, and they don't even realise they're being exploited", retired police captain Ray Lewis said. "As soon as I'm let out of jail, I'll be right back here and they'll have to arrest me again."

Bond trader Gene Williams, 57, joked that he was “one of the bad guys” and said supportively: “The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it's getting wider."

At 3 pm, thousands of students converged at Union Square in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. They held a teach-in to discuss their concerns about the prospect of a lifetime of debt and economic insecurity. They held a student general assembly and marched en masse to Foley Square. The rally at Foley Square was electric. It was remarkably diverse in participation, across race, religion, gender, and age.

As the rally concluded, thousands of participants walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, holding up lights — for a “festival of lights” to mark two months since the birth of the “99% movement”. (November 17 marks two months since the start of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Square.)

"I worked hard and played by the rules, but when budget cuts hit last year I lost my job as an EMT and now I'm about to lose my family's home", said Bronx resident Carlos Rivera. "I'm sitting down on the Brooklyn Bridge today because it's not fair that our taxpayer dollars bailed out big banks like my mortgage holder, Bank of America, but they refuse home-saving loan modifications for struggling families like mine. It's time banks and the super wealthy paid their fair share and Congress helped people get back to work."

 


November 16, 2011 -- Democracy Now! -- Occupy Wall Street protesters return to Zuccotti Park after 200 arrested, camping barred. Read more.

Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement persevere

UPDATED, November 15, 8.40 pm (NYC time) -- Occupy Wall Street -- Wall Street reoccupied! The feeling here at Liberty Square tonight is the feeling of a movement that is rising, building and making headway.

Following the 1 am eviction of Liberty Square early this morning and a long day of legal wrangling, the park was reoccupied late this afternoon. This evening, just after 7 pm, the first general assembly at the reoccupied park began. Using our 'people's mic', we declared together:

'They showed us their power. And we're showing them ours.'

We are here because we believe a better world is possible. We are willing to endure mistreatment, if by doing so we can help re-enfranchise the 99% and reclaim our democracy from the stranglehold of Wall Street and the top 1%.


November 15, 2011, report on Democracy Now! of the police attack on Occupy Wall Street.

We will push back against billionaire Michael Bloomberg and any politician who wantonly tramples on proud American freedoms: freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the freedom of Americans to peaceably assemble and petition for change.

We will overcome the obstacles placed before us. We will not be deterred. We will persevere. Our message is resonating across America, and our cause is shared by millions around the world. We are the 99%, and we want to live in a world that is for all of us — not just for those who have amassed great wealth and power.

You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.

 

Standing up for Occupy Wall Street

Socialist Worker reports on New York City's assault on Occupy Wall Street -- and activists' plan to respond to this attack on free speech.

November 15, 2011 -- New York City police destroyed the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park in an early-morning surprise attack on November 15. Hundreds of people who were sleeping at the park found themselves surrounded by police with no warning, and then subject to arrest or the violence of the NYPD.

Many hundreds more responded when an emergency alert went out about the police attack. When they got to Lower Manhattan, they found the park ringed with cops equipped in riot gear, while other police rampaged through the camp, destroying whatever was left behind when the occupiers were evicted.

This was an outrageous and unprovoked attack on a peaceful protest -- an attempt to squelch dissent because the 1 per cent and those who serve them are threatened by the message of the Occupy movement against greed and corporate power. Now Occupy activists and all the people who have supported it need to use every means to mobilise -- and stand up for our right to protest and demand a better life for the 99 per cent.

Excuse

City officials used the same excuse this time as they did when they tried to evict the Occupy camp one month ago, in mid-October: cleaning. Occupy protesters showed the absurdity of that charge with their own clean-up that turned the renamed Freedom Plaza into probably the cleanest park in New York City.

But more important was the several thousand people, led by members of the city's biggest unions, who mobilised overnight when the announcement was made that police would move in the next morning. The cops found a park teeming with people determined to keep the Occupy protest going. The city was forced to retreat.


Democracy Now! on November 15, 2011, heard eyewitness accounts of police violence against occupiers.

So this time, NYC mayor Bloomberg and his police moved in with no warning, hoping to accomplish what they failed to the last time, this time under cover of darkness. Socialist Worker contributor Jen Roesch describes the scene she found when she responded with many hundreds of people to the emergency alert.

Hundreds of riot cops had sealed off a two- to four-block radius around the park and ordered media to leave. When we arrived, we found subway stations accessing the area were shut down. Hundreds of people massed to the west, south and north of Zuccotti, but were greeted by lines of police in riot gear. I was standing next to a young woman whose friend was trapped in the park, and she was weeping--the riot cop in her face was sneering at her to "stop crying and go home, little girl".

As protesters chanted "This is a peaceful protest" the police very deliberately pushed into the crowd, driving hundreds of people further north. Several protesters, including City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, were beaten and pepper sprayed while following police orders to retreat.

After an hour-long standoff with the police, hundreds of people marched north on Broadway to Foley Square, the site of the planned protest on November 17, in hopes of uniting with others who had come down to support the encampment. Throughout the early morning hours, hundreds of people continued to pour into Foley Square.

It will take more than a police attack on Zuccotti Park to stop the Occupy struggle. As the Occupy Wall Street website says, "You can't evict an idea whose time has come."

Among supporters of the movement, there is intense discussions about what to do next, so the picture of what's happening will change throughout the day.

OWS will hold two general assemblies on November 15. The first is at 9 am at Canal and Sixth Avenue--as this story was being written, as many as 2000 people had turned out for the meeting. A second general assembly is set for 7 pm at Zuccotti Park, which Bloomberg has said will be reopened after the "cleaning", but with restrictions on anyone staying overnight or establishing an encampment.

Responding to an appeal by lawyers representing the Occupy movement, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the city's ban on protesters returning to Zuccotti Park with tents and other equipment to occupy it overnight. Despite this ban, the park remains barricaded.

On November 17, a previously planned day of action called by OWS in solidarity with some of the city's biggest unions and community organisations, will certainly draw even more people to raise their voices in protest.

Bloomberg and the 1 per cent in New York City are trying to silence dissent. But the Occupy movement isn't going anywhere. We will raise our voices against repression and the greed and power of the 1 per cent.

 

'You cannot evict an idea whose time has come'

The following is a press release was issued by Occupy Wall Street and the police were evicting the occupiers.

 New York, NY — A massive police force is presently evicting Liberty Square, home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months and birthplace of the 99% movement that has spread across the country and around the world

The raid started just after 1:00am. Supporters and allies are mobilizing throughout the city, presently converging at Foley Square. Supporters are also planning public actions for the coming days, including occupation actions.

Two months ago a few hundred New Yorkers set up an encampment at the doorstep of Wall Street. Since then, Occupy Wall Street has become a national and even international symbol — with similarly styled occupations popping up in cities and towns across America and around the world. A growing popular movement has significantly altered the national narrative about our economy, our democracy, and our future.

Americans are talking about the consolidation of wealth and power in our society, and the stranglehold that the top 1% have over our political system. More and more Americans are seeing the crises of our economy and our democracy as systemic problems, that require collective action to remedy. More and more Americans are identifying as part of the 99%, and saying "enough!"

This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic. The "us" in the movement is far broader than those who are able to participate in physical occupation. The movement is everyone who sends supplies, everyone who talks to their friends and families about the underlying issues, everyone who takes some form of action to get involved in this civic process.

This moment is nothing short of America rediscovering the strength we hold when we come together as citizens to take action to address crises that impact us all.

Such a movement cannot be evicted. Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces — our spaces — and, physically, they may succeed. But we are engaged in a battle over ideas. Our idea is that our political structures should serve us, the people — all of us, not just those who have amassed great wealth and power. We believe that is a highly popular idea, and that is why so many people have come so quickly to identify with Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement. 

You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.

 

NYPD raiding Occupy Wall Street!

November 16, 2011 -- Occupy Wall Street -- Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park), home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months and birthplace of the 99% movement that has spread across the country and around the world, is presently being evicted by a large police force in full riot gear.

We will reoccupy!

Updates

  • 6:05 a.m. Liberty Square has been cleared. General assembly under way at Foley Square.
  • 3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.
  • 3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in.
  • 3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police.
  • 3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.
  • 3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon.
  • 3:08 a.m. Heard on livestream: "they're bringing in the hoses."
  • 3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square.
  • 2:55 a.m. NYC council member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.
  • 2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen.
  • 2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5000 donated books in dumpster.
  • 2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed.
  • 2:38 a.m. 400-500 marching north to Foley Square.
  • 2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down.
  • 2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.
  • 2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times.
  • 2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square.
  • 2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square.
  • 2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed -- reports of at least one reporter sprayed.
  • 2:03 a.m. Massive police presence at Canal and Broadway.
  • 1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.
  • 1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.
  • 1:34 a.m. CBS News helicopter livestream.
  • 1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.
  • 1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.
  • 1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.
  • 1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting "This is what a police state looks like."
  • 1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.
  • 1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.

Protest

  • Call 311 if you're in the NYC area.
  • NYPD 1st Precinct: 212.334.0611
  • NYPD Central Booking: 718.875.6303
  • NYPD Internal Affairs: 212.487.7350
  • City Hall: 212.788.3058

 

Thousands of riot cops descend on Occupy Oakland, 32 arrested

By Joshua Holland

November 14, 2011 -- Alternet -- At approximately 5 am, hundreds of police officers clad in heavy riot gear descended on the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza and proved definitively that the hyper-militarised crowd control tactics that brought so much national attention to the city in recent weeks were unnecessary uses of excessive force.

Several local police agencies contributed as many as 1000 officers for the eviction, according to reports. They shut down a wide perimeter around the plaza and then moved up, block by block, in heavy lines, until the mass of protesters was pushed into the intersection of 14th and Broadway. Then, a large phalanx of riot police moved into the plaza itself, where they arrested 32 people who had chosen to remain in the camp in an act of civil disobedience.

At one point, police moved in and arrested about a dozen people huddled in a circle in silent prayer at the interfaith tent.

When I departed, police were tearing down tents and clearing the plaza. There were no reports of injuries, according to a National Lawyers Guild legal observer on the scene.

This was a striking departure from the tactics that Bay Area law enforcement agencies, working in cooperation with the Oakland Police Department, had employed on October 25 and the night of November 2. While police crowd control techniques are rarely pretty, people facing off with riot police as part of various occupations around the country probably don't have a good sense of the force used during the first eviction of Occupy Oakland – and during subsequent protests the following night.

It's the explosions and large volume of gunshots that made these actions excessive. The generous use of flash-bang grenades, tear gas and “less lethal” rounds deployed by police in heavy black body armor felt more like the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan than footage of, say, protests against the Vietnam War being broken up by helmeted police swinging batons. While the weapons deployed by police are designed not to kill or maim (if used properly), the visceral sensation of walking through streets dodging explosions and chemical agents while rounds crackle in the air creates an effect similar to that of actual combat – abject terror, disorientation and a sense of unease that lingers for days.

Those weapons do result in wounds – the tally for October 25 and November 2 was three broken hands, two head injuries (one of which, to Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was quite severe), a ruptured spleen and minor injuries too numerous to catalogue.

This morning, the police, buffeted by bad publicity resulting from two notably violent crack-downs on protesters, simply chose a different method by which to achieve the exact same goal. This time, they chose to follow the book – California's Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience guidelines (PDF) state, “Only that force which is objectively reasonable may be used to arrest violators and restore order,” and, unlike on previous nights in the streets of Oakland, they did just that.

In another departure from past practices, they let the protesters protest. Whereas police issued a series of orders to disperse on the evening of October 25 – and then unleashed a barrage of non-lethal weapons when they did not comply – this time they simply let the crowd blow off steam. The police erected and manned barricades to keep protesters in the intersection, where they chanted for an hour or two before losing steam and dispersing, without violence and of their own accord.

What this morning's eviction had in common with the one two weeks before is that the end-game is just as unclear. Protesters again promise to reclaim the plaza as soon as police leave. The Oakland City Council has reportedly entertained a proposal to hire private security guards to keep the plaza clear, but this is a cash-strapped city and one has to believe that the Occupiers\' resolve will outlast the city\'s private security budget.

Meanwhile, the occupiers plan to “reconvene” at 4 pm at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library. It remains to be seen if the city\'s smarter, less violent crowd control strategies will continue to prevail.

 

Portland council attacks Occupy camp

By Camille White-Avian

November 15, 2011 -- Socialist Worker (US) -- One of the largest Occupy movements outside New York City mobilised thousands of people through the night of November 12 to defend its encampments in adjoining parks -- but by the next morning, Portland's liberal Democratic mayor and the police who answer to him were able to move against the camps and shut them down.

Police sealed off Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, which are separated by one street, and city crews went through on Sunday and Monday, taking down the remnants of the Occupy camps.

But Occupy supporters, whose numbers peaked at about 8,000 during their standoff with police on November 12 night and November 13 morning, feel a sense of defiance, not demoralisation. Some of the occupiers have transferred the protest to downtown Pioneer Square. And with a planned November 16 walkout at Portland State University (PSU) by students eager to begin their own Occupy and the November 17 national day of action, the struggle in Portland continues.

The weekend showdown was triggered by Mayor Sam Adams' decision to issue an eviction order against the Occupy encampments for Sunday, November 13, at 12:01 am.

In his statement, Adams asserted that the eviction was not "an action against the Occupy Portland movement" but rather was in the best interests of the movement. "I have said from the beginning that I believe the Occupy movement would have to evolve in order to realise its full potential", Adams declared

Apparently, Mayor Adams figured that the best tool for this "evolution" was police nightsticks and pepper spray.

Like city officials in New York City and Oakland, Adams cited "health and safety concerns" as a pretext for the crackdown, but no one who supports Occupy Portland was fooled. Even before a general assembly could issue a statement, the activist and labour communities had already put out the call to defend the camp. As Occupy Portland's stated in its press release:

The city's evidence of increased crime around the Occupy site has only verified what is already clear--interpersonal conflicts, substance abuse and disorderly conduct arrests have increased. What the city of Portland has failed to prove, however, is that the protesters of Occupy Portland are direct threats to public safety and economic activity.

Occupy Portland itself is not the root of whatever ills affected the camps. On the contrary, they had become a gathering place for the 99 per cent, including people reeling from attacks on social services, the national foreclosure epidemic and poverty.

The system's inability to address such pressing social needs gave rise to the Occupy movement in the first place. If Adams truly shared the goals of the Occupy movement, he would have sent social workers, not police, into the camps.

Defending the camp

The November action to defend the camp began with a 2 pm march from the downtown waterfront to Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, each of which occupies a city block between SW Third and Fourth Avenues divided by SW Main Street. Throughout the afternoon, activists held safety training classes to prepare for the police repression anticipated by protesters.

Other activities included performances by radical troubador David Rovics, a community Occufest/Occupotluck and a bike swarm. Non-violence was the watchword for the entirety of the events.

As the midnight deadline loomed, the protest grew. What had been hundreds of dedicated activists throughout the day grew into a mass of thousands who took over the camp and the one-block section of Main Street between the two parks.

A police line met the protesters in the streets at the intersection of Main and Third. Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators stood on the steps of the Portland Police Bureau building across from the camp, many with cameras in hand and an elevated view of the action -- giving added force to the frequent chants of "The whole world is watching!"

As the midnight deadline passed, the energy of the crowd grew. Earlier chants of "Hey, Mayor Adams, send the police home!" morphed into "We won't go! Send the cops home!"

When organisers confirmed that police had been given orders to not make people leave until 2 am, a cheer went up. Among the protesters who pushed into Main Street, between the two squares, the mood was festive, with people laughing, dancing and talking excitedly. The sheer number of people filled everyone with a sense of giddiness.

Meanwhile, the police began to line up and restrict movement by stopping people from crossing Third Avenue while the occupation of Main Street continued. Tensions ran high as police and protesters maneuvered for position. The police could be seen in full riot gear, batons drawn and ready to swing. Protesters held their ground and called on others to pull in closer and reinforce the front lines.

When a protester allegedly threw a firecracker near police, police from the Lownsdale Square side of Main Street began to roughly push people backwards. There was a great deal of confusion when the police grabbed and arrested a man near the front, claiming as justification that he had thrown the object. Chants of "We are peaceful, you are not!" and "Peaceful protest" erupted. Some chanted directly at the police, "Quit your jobs!"

Other protesters began to link arms and cover their faces with bandanas as police pulled out canisters of pepper spray and pushed demonstrators even more aggressively. Then four police on horseback moved in to further intimidate and push people out of the intersection. During the chaos instigated by police, several people were pepper-sprayed.

But every time police aggravated demonstrators, it only served to harden the resolve of activists to peacefully hold the street. After roughly half an hour, protesters had pushed out into SW Third, forcing the visibly shaken riot police to stand on the steps of their own station and on the sidewalk of SW Madison around the corner from the protest.

As several thousand people danced, milled about and talked in the streets surrounding the squares, the police regrouped. Throughout the night, people came and went. Sometimes, it seemed like the crowd was thinning out, but still the number of people hovered above 1000 well into the early morning.

Feeling victorious and exhausted, many people went home between 4 am and 9 am. When the crowd thinned out enough, police felt confident in clearing the squares of whatever people and belongings remained.

Next steps

Occupy Portland held a general assembly at noon on November 13 in Terry Schrunk Plaza, which is adjacent to Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, to discuss next steps after the police took down the encampments. During the assembly, occupiers decided to move back into the parks from which they had been evicted, and over the next several hours, there were a series of confrontations that drew more and more protesters back into the streets as the police attempted to force an end to the demonstration.

For several hours, the local media reported a stalemate between police and protesters, until protesters eventually decided to move to Pioneer Square, a privately owned square in Portland's shopping district.

Meanwhile, city officials are attempting to turn the public against the Occupy movement by focusing on "damages" and "clean-up costs" at the parks that amount to some $50,000. But far more costly and wasteful was the money spent on police overtime -- money that could have been used for social services so desperately needed by the 99 per cent.

"We may have lost the parks, but from our standpoint the events of the weekend were a victory", Occupy activist Kari Koch told The Oregonian. "The turnout by the community was amazing. We are in a strong position to keep the movement going forward."

"We are out the parks, and into the banks", she added.

With spirits high, it seems only a matter of time until Occupy activists decide on one of the many parks in the area to set up a new encampment.

[Nicole Bowmer, Meredith Reese and Adam Sanchez contributed to this article.]

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