The Panic in Zuccotti Park: Protesters Rousted After Two-Month Occupation

As Bloomberg, Brookfield get tough, city wonders what's next.

“Whose streets? Our streets!” The march picked up speed and mass as it flowed from the sidewalk into the middle of the street at Broadway and Canal. There wasn’t a cop in sight, until City Hall park, where the protesters marched right into the NYPD. A chorus arose of “Fuck you, Bloomberg!” as police on motorcycles halved the crowd and drove the protesters onto the sidewalk. The chant changed to a more defensive “This! Is! A peaceful protest!” After a short standoff, the crowd seemed to make a collective decision that it would be better to head back to Zuccotti than to get arrested, and the protest, largely pacified, took to the sidewalk for the familiar trek along Broadway, now with a heavy police escort. The procession gummed up once it reached the corner of the square; protesters were slammed together in a ring outside a barricaded Zuccotti, now empty of tents, Macbooks, drums and hippies and filled with police and neon-vested workers from Brookfield Properties. On the sidewalks surrounding Zuccotti Park, protesters did their best to keep the mood festive.

Christina Gonzalez, a pretty 20-something with dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail, waved a sign. “Our park is a health hazard?” it read. “This whole planet is a fucking health hazard!!!” Another woman wore a bikini-style Uncle Sam costume accented by elaborate silver foil wings. One man sported a full facial tattoo, cowboy hat and T-shirt fashioned from a Confederate flag, while carrying a sign accusing Barney Frank of wild sexual crimes.

Pedestrians, who were mostly a mix of tourists and Wall Street lunch breakers, found themselves forced to wade through this shoulder-to-shoulder mass of protesters. Men wearing the dark suits that marked them as members of the dreaded Wall Street 1 percent were sprinkled throughout the crowd. Some mocked the protesters.

“I feel like I should check for my wallet,” a balding besuited man with a flashy gold chain said to his similarly styled friend as they made their way through the crowd.

We spotted several Wall Streeters showing support the movement. A well-dressed 50-year-old man named John who admitted to working at a financial firm (though he wouldn’t say which one), carried a sign that read, “Please do not give up, the whole world is watching.”

Chris, 23, wore a black jacket identifying him as a stock exchange worker and chatted with a rotund man whose shirt was festooned with protest buttons.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Chris said. “I’ve been here the whole time. I spend most of my lunch breaks conversing with people like this gentleman.”

We asked what his boss would say about his interest in the movement.

“My boss is my father, so we’d have to see,” he said. “We joke about which side I’m actually on.”

Around 5 p.m., Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman upheld the mayor’s position that camping would no longer be allowed in the park. Half an hour later, protesters swarmed back into the park.

With the threat of further violence and chaos hanging over the city, protesters, 1-percenters and their fellow New Yorkers were united in at least one regard—watching the strange standoff at Zuccotti Park and wondering what will happen next.

hwalker@observer.com

With additional reporting
by Adrianne Jeffries,
Drew Grant, and Ben Popper.

 

The Panic in Zuccotti Park: Protesters Rousted After Two-Month Occupation