The NYPD arrested 70 protesters as they moved in on Zuccotti Park early this morning and cleared out the thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters who had taken over the space for nearly two months.
Mayor Bloomberg, who called the decision to boot the protesters "mine and mine alone," said protesters would be allowed back into the Lower Manhattan park but not with their tents and sleeping bags.
But the city's victory is headed to court: This morning the National Lawyers Guild announced it had recieved a restraining order against the city ordering the mobs be allowed back in along with their tents and sleeping bags.
A hearing is set for 11:30 a.m.
Bloomberg said this morning that the nearly two-month-old shantytown in the city's bustling downtown had become a haven for criminals and a safety hazard.
"Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others," Bloomberg said.
More than 1,000 cops marched on the lower Manhattan encampment shortly before 1 a.m. and handed out fliers ordering demonstrators to get out and remove their personal property.
The cops were followed by Sanitation workers, one of whom was overheard saying, “We’re gonna disinfect the hell out of this place.”
The fliers read, “The city has determined that the continued occupation of Zuccotti Park poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park, the city’s first responders, and to the surrounding community.
“You are required to immediately remove all property, including tents, sleeping bags and tarps.”
That touched off a chaotic scene within the park, as many of the protesters were roused from their slumber and began shouting to others, “Wake up!”
The chaos was continuing this morning, as cops and protesters battled on Pine Street and Broadway at 5 a.m., with police pushing crowds out of the street and on to the sidewalk. Cops charged into the mob after a protester threw an object into a group of police.
At least one police officer was injured; he was seen being taken out of Zuccotti Park on a stretcher, his eyes closed and with several lacerations on his face.
Cops cut U-shaped bike locks off the necks of the last holdouts, who chained themselves together in the center of Zuccotti, witnesses said.
Several hundred ousted protesters marched north up Centre Street after the cleanup, clashing with police who in at least one case were seen using batons on a group crossing the street in a crosswalk and with the green light. A large crowd of protesters went north and are at Foley Square.
Police arrested at least 70 people in the early morning chaos, physically dragging many from the squalid encampment.
“What do you mean I’m done? What law did I break?” screamed a man as he was arrested and marched out of the park.
“I’m an anarchist, I’m not leaving this park,” said Asa Lowe, who was binding the hands of Amina Malika, 17, and Mesiah Hameed, 16, to a tree in the center of the park.
“I don’t give a f--k what they do,” said Hameed.
The anti-greed demonstrators were told they could return to Zuccotti Park in “several hours” after it was “cleared and restored for its intended use.”
But they were warned they would no longer be allowed to camp out or bring sleeping gear.
By 5:30 a.m., the newly-scrubbed Zuccotti was a far cry from the filthy mass of tents and blankets that had fouled the park for two months. All the tents have been cleared and a heavy smell of disinfectant lingered in the air. By 7 a.m. all the streets surrounding the park were open to the public.
One area resident was thrilled to finally have his neighborhood back.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m so happy to finally be able to use the open spaces of the Financial District again,” said the man, who asked that his name not be published.
As cops continued to remove demonstrators who wouldn’t go willingly, leaders of the movement were heard yelling, “Mike check! Disobey your orders!”
“I’m not leaving just ’cause the police say so,” vowed Ben Swenson, 25, from Brooklyn.
“I have so many belongings here. It’s about social rights and equality. I’m not moving!”
Tyrone Greenfield, 23, said, “I got here and I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“I’m willing to get arrested, as many of us are. If they think this will accomplish anything, I disagree.”.
An NYPD supervisor was overheard telling his officers, “Nice and easy, no one gets hurt. Nice and easy.”
When cops first arrived, some of the protesters began chanting, “The whole world is watching!” and sang Bob Marley songs.
A sound cannon was set up on the back of a truck on Liberty Street as police massed at three points to begin their march towards the center of the park — where the kitchen area was located.
As cops closed in, a “frozen zone” was created and all members of the press were also kicked out.
Some protesters complained of heavy-handed tactics and said they were clubbed as cops moved into the park. Husband and wife protest pair Matt and Liz Baldwin initially tried to resist, but voluntarily left the park in the face of what they said was police brutality.
"They were beating people; I saw police beating people," Matt Baldwin said. "My wife's pregnant. I had to get her out of there."
Two large groups of evicted demonstrators marched to City Hall and to the famous bull statue near Wall Street.
The protesters’ ouster came less than a day after the movement announced plans for a series of disruptive protests outside the Stock Exchange and throughout the subway system.
Hours before today’s massive operation began, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano and other officials secretly convened at City Hall to OK the move, sources said.
The mayor defended the crackdown in a statement released today, saying that the city couldn't wait until someone was killed at the increasingly crime-ridden shantytown, and that the decision to move in was his.
"Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others," Bloomberg said, adding that he respects the group's right to protest.
“Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.
The NYPD force ranged from rookies to high-ranking officers assigned to borough task forces and precincts around the city. They began reporting at around 11 p.m. for formation under the FDR Drive between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, sources said.
“They were told it was a mobilization drill, but to bring their hats and bats,” said one source, referring to protective head gear and batons.
Donning riot attire, the cops were accompanied by Emergency Service Unit trucks, as well as prisoner transport vans and city buses in the likely event that protestors did not go peacefully, the sources added.
Another group of cops comprising the NYPD Critical Response Vehicles will report this morning to the Jacob Javits Center.
The total number of Occupy Wall Street protesters busted since the protest began Sept 17 was 1,108, before last night, according to the NYPD.