Thousands of defiant Occupy Wall Street protesters streamed into Zuccotti Park late Tuesday, less than 24 hours after police forcibly removed them from their camp. Police arrested more than 200 people, including about a dozen who had chained themselves to each other and to trees. As protesters returned, a judge upheld the city’s ban preventing them from bringing backpacks, tents and sleeping bags with them into the park. Democracy Now! spoke with protesters as they regrouped after the raid. "The reason I’m down here is because I’m tired of seeing suffering of so many people while you have 1 percent who is accumulating all this wealth on the backs of all the workers," says Ray Lewis, a retired police captain from the Philadelphia Police Department. He critiques his colleagues for "basically just enforcing the laws of the dictators, which is the 1 percent. And they’re having their healthcare cut, their pensions cut, and their salaries reduced, and they don’t even realize it." [includes rush transcript]
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Defiant Occupy Wall Street protesters streamed into Zuccotti Park late Tuesday in a bid to rebuild their cause less than 24 hours after police forcibly removed them from their camp. A fired-up crowd of [thousands of people] joined in the first general assembly since the surprise eviction. The eviction had occurred around 1:00 a.m. with hundreds of police storming the camp and dismantling tents, tarpaulins, outdoor furniture, mattresses and signs. They arrested over 200 people, including about a dozen who had chained themselves to each other and to trees.
Even as protesters returned Tuesday evening, they were banned from bringing backpacks, tents and sleeping bags with them. A judge ruled yesterday afternoon that the city had the right to enforce rules against camping gear in the park. Justice Michael Stallman found the city, at least for now, can ban the protesters from pitching tents and unrolling sleeping bags in the park.
Democracy Now! was at Occupy Wall Street last night to talk to some of the protesters as they regrouped after the raid.
PROTESTER 1: The fact that the police have done this, have dismantled it—and, I mean, the video, they’re just throwing stuff, they’re just throwing people’s possessions. And, you know, like, there’s a Borders that used to be down there. If we had gone down there and thrown all their books out, and then we had gone to, like, a camping store and thrown all their tents out, there would be hell to pay. But I think that people are starting to look at that, because this has such a psychic hold, because it’s such a big symbol at this point, whether anybody wants it to be or not. It’s causing a lot of attention. And that’s good. And hopefully, at that point, we can start the conversation again, and we can say, like, "All right, no tents. What’s the alternative?" And ultimately, that was a conversation that needed to happen anyway.
PROTESTER 2: Please tell me why everyone in this park has a solution...
GABRIEL JOHNSON: We kind of needed to re-evaluate where we stand as a movement, and I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to grow and to strengthen from it. And I think we’ve been ultra within the law, and like we’ve always played by their rules. And now that they’ve thrown this at us, it’s just good that we get a chance to show how intuitive and how ingenious we are as a movement. I can only see growth from here. And I think people have come back not with a vengeance, but with a lot hope, strength, energy, and just more love for each other. It’s caused us to refocus a whole lot, so I’m really grateful for them cleaning the park.
LAURA ATLAS: I feel like right over here, starting from nothing tonight, we have already received several—maybe a couple hundred books of donations. So, you know, the People’s Library is strong. The people are donating and taking the books already, within a matter of hours of reopening the park.
PROTESTER 3: We’re just passing out food. They don’t allow us to have a kitchen anymore inside the park, so we’ve now set up one just a block down, and we’re passing stuff over the fence so that people can get food.
BRIAN FREUD: My name is Brian Freud. I’m a physician assistant. Since we lost so much yesterday, we are afraid to lose more. Our resources are limited now. So right now we’re making sure that if we need to pack up and leave in a hurry, we can. What we’re doing is we make sure we have our emergency necessary supplies in case things get out of hand, people get pepper-sprayed. We have solution, plus basic essentials, bandages, ice packs, thermal blankets, all the necessary things for bumps, bruises, cuts, sprains, dehydration, and just making sure people take care of themselves.
PROTESTER 4: I’m a student at NYU Law. And at one point, I remember we were walking quite slowly, and the group kept saying, "Slow down. Slow down. We’re not in a rush to get back there. This is our time, not theirs." And the cops behind them were pushing with their batons and shoving the Lawyers Guild people with their batons, saying, "Walk faster. The law is you have to walk faster than us," which, I’m here to inform them, is not in fact the law.
I come from a very conservative state: I’m from Indiana. And I think I’ve always been quite respectful of the police. I recognize that they’re doing an increasingly difficult job. But I think this experience has shaped the way that I think about the police. It’s shaped the way that I perceive our government. And honestly, when I first came to law school, I was perfectly content doing corporate work. But after watching this, I just feel increasingly compelled to actually do something with my life to effect change and to just stop, you know, this unnecessary and aggressive and just disgusting and despicable behavior by our government officials and our police officers.
RAY LEWIS: My name is Ray Lewis. I’m a retired police captain from the Philadelphia Police Department. And the reason I’m down here is because I’m tired of seeing suffering of so many people while you have 1 percent who is accumulating all this wealth on the backs of all the workers. The police are the 99 percent. Unfortunately, they don’t realize it. But what they are are basically just enforcing the laws of the dictators, which is the 1 percent. And they’re having their healthcare cut, their pensions cut, and their salaries reduced, and they don’t even realize it.
PROTESTER 2: We are the 99 percent! We are the blood of this country! This country can’t live without us! Let’s take control!
GABRIEL JOHNSON: One of the huge misconceptions is that all the movement is in this park. The movement is in our head: it’s an idea. Like, it’s the—it’s what happens while we’re here, you know, the conversations we have that we take with us everywhere. The working groups are still 100 percent functional, and we have this wonderful thing called the internet. I don’t know if the cops have heard about it, but they can’t shut that down.
PROTESTER 5: They can try.
PROTESTER 6: Oh, they could try.
GABRIEL JOHNSON: They could try, but, like, you know, we still—we still have access to the ideas we have, and we still have the ability and the opportunity to share the ideas we have.
AMY GOODMAN: Voices from Occupy Wall Street, less than 24 hours after police forcibly evicted protesters from Zuccotti Park.
During a news conference yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the early-morning eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out, but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others, nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here. The First Amendment protects speech. It does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.
AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. For more on Wall Street and similar movements around the nation and the world, we’re joined in New York by two guests. When we come back from break, we’ll talk to Marina Sitrin, who has just returned from Greece, and Jeff Sharlet, who’s one of the organizers of Occupy Writers. Back in a minute.