Friday, October 14, 2011

Observations from the Edge 10.14

I went down to Zuccotti Park early Friday morning where the city was poised to use the cover of park cleaning to evict Occupy Wall Street. If what follows seems a bit confusing it may be because I was running, and still am running, on three hours sleep and most of it is off the top of my head because I was traveling without my usual backpack of toys. All I took along was Ash's old Nikon, the largest cup of coffee I could find at 5 AM, my phone zipped tight in my jacket, and the cell number of Ash's lawyer who I am quite sure was already expecting my call.

When I got to Zuccotti around 5:30 there were already thousands of people crowding the park. Broadway was partially blocked by steel barricades and maybe a hundred NYPD officers, a sight which sort of blew my mind. Not so much seeing all of them there but the fact that they were blocking one of the main arteries of the Financial District just before rush hour. Not only that but it was perfectly timed to be broadcast live on all the morning news shows and I began thinking somebody really hadn't thought the whole thing through. That may have been the scariest thought of the day. Ringing the park were cameras from networks all over the country and the world. I could easily pick out ABC 7, NBC 4, CNN, Univision, AP, German ARD, and the BBC.

I found a nice clean and comfy trash can to sit on than settled in to drink my coffee and see what dawn bought. My trash can was in a good spot just outside the park with an open street behind it so I figured I had a nice exit route should I need one. Just after 6:00 my escape plan went to hell when about a dozen officers arrived on scooters I could only think they borrowed from meter maids. I have to admit that made me more than a little nervous so I quickly double checked that lawyer's number. Not long after the scooter cops arrived a rumor began to spread through the crowd that the whole operation had been postponed if not canceled and it was officially announced at around 6:45. It was a slightly emotional moment because the crowd began chanting “we won, we won” over and over and I know I saw some of the younger cops smiling. By now I had my phone out and was back in contact with the rest of my world.

At this point hundreds of protesters poured out of the park and headed north on Broadway in an impromptu celebratory march on City Hall. I hoped off my perch and followed part of the way but turned back when I started to see riot police, horses, and those damn orange nets the police used to gather up marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge. During this march protesters clashed with riot police outside City Hall and this is where most of the days arrests took place. I wandered back through Zuccotti taking photos and talking a little including to a guy who had just been arrested in the big Occupy Boston arrest, got out, and than traveled to New York fully expecting to be arrested yet again. One of the most discussed topics is also one of the least reported facts of the day. Diana Taylor, Mayor Bloomberg's live in girlfriend, just happens to be on the board of directors of Brookfield Office Properites, the owners of Zuccotti Park.

Personally I don't think the cleaning operation could have been planned without the approval of Mayor Bloomberg himself and so the decision not too do it must have been his as well. Probably laying it on Brookfield Properties was an easy way for him to wash his hands of the whole affair should it have gone bad. I have to agree with what a Village Voice writer said in a column later in the day. If the decision not to clean the park had been made the night before why the hell didn't they announce it than. Announce it before thousands of people, some of them very heavily armed, stood in the early morning light of Zuccotti Park just waiting for something to happen.

What I do know is that the word postponed was burned into the minds of everyone there this morning. Not cancelled, just postponed.

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