2011 ended and 2012 began with the sound of drumming and chants of “We are the 99 percent” in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park as some 500 people associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement assembled for a New Year’s Eve celebration — and with police carrying out a protester to shouts of “Shame!” and scuffling with protesters and an “arch of pepper spray.”
The New York Times’s City Room blog reports that Saturday night’s events had begun “more diplomatically.” About 100 people associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement had appeared in the park — which was cleared six weeks ago in an overnight raid — at about 7:00 pm and erected a multicolored tent that stood about two feet tall. Two young girls were at the park with their mother and began to play in the tent. Police and security officers had been stationed across the street and informed protesters that the tent violated rules set for the park’s use by its owner, Brookfield Properties. Other protesters and “at least one reporter” were blocked were entering the park, though some squeezed through metal barricades placed around the park. Protesters were informed that they could enter the park if the tent were taken down and they did so and entered the park after their bags were searched. People gathered near a corner of the park that had been used for general assembly meetings during the occupation.
According to the New York Times, a protester was carried out by police around 10:30 pm for unspecified reasons. Then things became chaotic:
About 20 minutes later, a group of protesters grabbed some of the metal barricades that surround the park and began piling them inside. As they gripped the barricades, police officers took hold as well, and a shoving match began, the silver bars trapped in between. At least one police officer fired an arch of pepper spray into the crowd behind those barricades.
Moments later, at least a dozen police officers charged into the park, plowing directly into a crowd of people, some of whom were trying to flee, pushing and shoving. One man was thrown down and pinned to the ground by several officers.
This video shows a police officer shaking a can of pepper spray.
About 150 people remained in the park at about 1:30 am. Police and security officers “pushed protesters from the park and led about five people out in handcuffs” and a “credentialed news photographer” who was on the verge of documenting an arrest was shoved “repeatedly…backwards” by an officer. Using a megaphone, a police commander than announced that the park, which is normally open 24 hours, would be closed until 9:00 am. Protesters were told that the sidewalks around the park were closed. A group of about 200 protesters marched through SoHo and into the East Village just as the park was being cleared; one protesters, Isham Christie, told the New York Times that they were headed to Tompkins Square Park but that many were stopped and surrounded by police and arrested.
Gothamist reports that the NYPD are still processing how many were arrested last night but said that the “number of OWS would be greater than the number of arrests from Times Square’s New Year’s festivities.”
If the events in Zuccotti Park are any indication, 2012 is going to be a year of occupations, clashes with the authorities and even more chances to hear the voices of the 99 percent.
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Photo taken December 17 by Sunset Parkerpix