The Occupy Wall Street movement (yes, it’s still going strong) recently won a major legal victory: New York City will fork over nearly $250,000 to the activists as punishment for the destruction of personal and collectively-owned property during a November 2011 raid on the Zuccotti Park encampment.
Its been nearly two long years since OWS protesters set up camp in the park near Wall Street. Just in case the details are fuzzy, here’s a recap:
In mid-November 2011, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a surprise attack on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park.
Under cover of darkness, hundreds of NYPD officers dressed in riot gear arrived to evict the protesters from park that they had occupied peacefully for two months.
Protesters and journalists were forced to leave without gathering their personal possessions, many of which were destroyed for no reason.
The Occupy Wall Street kitchen, medical tent, bike-powered generators, and library were all dismantled and volunteers who tried to protect the structures were arrested. Over 5,000 books donated to the Occupy Wall Street library were thrown into a dumpster.
Just days ago, a lawsuit brought against the City of New York resulted in a settlement that requires the city to pay the activist group over $230,000 in damages and legal fees. The settlement includes $47,000 in damages for destruction of The People’s library.
OWS lawyers stated that the victory was less about dollars to be paid than a powerful statement about constitutional rights and the destruction of books. Although the settlement isn’t an outright admission of wrongdoing on NYC’s part, it does force the city to acknowledge that their actions during the raid and indeed the entire occupation, were less than admirable. From the actual settlement documents:
Defendants acknowledge and believe it is unfortunate that, during the course of clearing Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011, books were damaged so as to render them unusable, and additional books are unaccounted for. Defendants further acknowledge and believe it unfortunate that certain library furnishings and equipment likewise were damaged so as to render them unusable, and other library furnishings and equipment may be unaccounted for. Plaintiffs and Defendants recognize that when a person’s property is removed from the city it is important that the City exercise due care and adhere to established procedures in order to protect legal rights of the property owners.
You’ll be happy to know that long before the settlement was reached, the People’s Library was resurrected. It now consists of a few mobile units – shopping carts, crates - used by librarians to ferry free books in and out of the OWS storage facility and to Liberty Plaza and actions around the city. The librarians see this as temporary, and are dedicated to finding a space to allow for greater access to the collection.
Image via Occupy Wall Street Library