Eight Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested in Lower Manhattan late last night as the NYPD shut down Zuccotti Park in a strong and often baffling show of force. At the height of the confrontation, there were approximately 40 NYPD officers monitoring around 30 protesters, and the arrests, many of which were seemingly arbitrary and incidental, were spurred after several protesters brought backpacks and sleeping bags into the park.
Charley, a protester who refused to give his last name, said that the group arrived at Zuccotti Park after a march from Union Square earlier in the day. "A few people have sleeping bags, and we have a huge rug too. We're basically seeing what [the police] will tolerate. I don't know that we're all planning on sleeping here."
Protesters claimed the park's private security force told them they could bring in blankets. "We can't look the other way but by all means," one of the guards said. A female NYPD officer strolling through the park grabbed a protester's blanket. "This is a sleeping bag," the officer determined, before reconsidering. "Or, no, it's a blanket. It's, it's a sleeping bag." The protester rolled up the blanket and walked out of the park. Officer DiPace told us, "The chief wants us to lock everybody up."
Shortly before midnight, a group of officers began moving through the park, inspecting bags, and shooing away the handful of protesters, some of whom scattered immediately rather than have their bags inspected. When asked what law they were breaking, Officer DiPace replied, "There's a law against everything. That's America." At the entrance to the park, the arrests began with the individual seen in this video, who insists police arrested him after sat down on the sidewalk.
Around the 1:23 and 1:30 marks of the video above, Officer Rosado (who declined to give his first name) can be seen ordering the arrests of two individuals standing in a small crowd outside of the park, shortly after the NYPD declared it closed. Those who objected to the arrests were arrested. The NYPD press office later told us there were eight arrests; seven were charged with disorderly conduct and one for obstructing governmental administration.
As the small group of protesters stood at the southeast end of the park, a handful began singing "American Pie." Officer McNamara quickly asked the group for its attention. "This is New York City, you can't be making noise at night," he said. "I don't want to have to put you away, but you have to be quiet. If not, you'll be next in the wagon. If you cross the line, you'll go to jail." Several protesters asked Officer McNamara why the park wasn't open as it was legally required to be, and he walked away.
Asked why the park was closed, one of the officers standing guard in the east end of the park replied, "Why are you asking stupid questions?" At this point, Officer Rosado began to point out people with backpacks to arrest who weren't standing inside the park, as if he was picking the remaining apples from a denuded tree. By 12:45 a.m., about 20 protesters remained.
"They arrest us for being here in communion with one another. For sitting and talking and having meaningful discourse," a young man named Chris O'Donnell observed. Soon after, another protester defiantly walked through the park, and police moved into make an arrest. As the unidentified demonstrator ran down Cedar Street, the police gave chase, and Officer Rosado derisively shouted, "Why are you running? I thought you believed in something!"
By 1 a.m., only police remained, guarding an empty park:
Additional reporting by John Del Signore and Katie Sokoler