As you probably know, Liberty Plaza was raided last night. An hour before the park was raided my friend Jack Nemo, an older man, let me know a Community Affairs Officer of the same age had told him and an older woman, Kathie, that they should take notice of all the cops, press, and sanitation trucks that had taken to the nearby area. Before leaving, the cop ominously warned, “Normandy”. Jack Nemo then relayed the information to me and I relayed the warning, but was met with much skepticism as we’ve heard the cops would raid us just about every night. And then the lights came on, the cops paraded to the edge of the steps in full riot gear and a sound canon fired, announcing our peaceful time protesting in the park for nearly two months had come to a screeching halt. Campers across the park quickly climbed out of their tents screaming, “WAKE UP THE POLICE ARE HERE!” I ran into the library and let the handful of people sleeping in there know what was happening, then unlocked and pulled the OWS POETRY ANTHOLOGY from the shelves and strapped them to my body, then climbed atop a table in the park and read poems from the anthology. Immediately, the people of Liberty Plaza launched into action, a group of about a hundred protesters took to the kitchen and U-Locked/tied themselves down. After reading the third poem, the cops began to enter the park and I realized that I would most likely lose all of my possessions so I quickly grabbed a bag of my personal stuff, ran into the library and dumped a bunch of boxes of books onto the floor to make the cleaning up more difficult for the cops then ran my personal stuff and a few amazing books to a friends house around the corner. I naively thought I could get my stuff to my friends house and then re-enter the park but could only get to the corner of Liberty and Broadway after prepping myself for a long night.
Once on the corner I immediately launched into action and again started reading from the OWS POETRY ANTHOLOGY. Someone in the crowd said the cops wouldn’t respond to the poems but I countered, it’s not about the cops, it’s about making the voices of all those that have sent poems to the anthology heard. A few cops then got in my face and began pushing the crowd I was in up Broadway. I kept reading poems as the waved batons in our faces, and fellow protesters cried as we realized they were forcing all witnesses away from the park. The further we were pushed away, it seemed the louder the park became as the police became increasingly brutal. We watched in horror as the police entered the park swinging billy-clubs and slashing tents, similar to how police in Oakland brutally assaulted the protesters that had taken Oscar Grant Plaza.
A few moments later a man that had been tear gassed on the sidewalk ran in our direction and the group I was with took him to our friends place on Maiden Lane. I looked on in horror as his bloodshot eyes/face/body was directed into her apartment then into her shower. It reminded me of something that would happen in war-torn Eastern European country in the early nineties… I couldn’t believe this was happening in New York City. Simultaneously, we realized the library was being destroyed. Helplessly we watched the news as it showed clips of the entire park being scooped up and thrown into trash trucks. It’s appalling to think that a city with over 40,000 homeless, would allow for a park full of great resources, such as tents, tarps, sleeping bags, clothing, food, electronics, etc. to be thrown into the garbage. And I must reiterate, the police explained upon entering the park that all materials in the park would be available to be picked up later at a police location and the park was being evacuated because it was unsanitary and unsafe for humans to inhabit. The NYPD lied again!
Again I hit the streets, this time more librarians and fellow protesters had made it to the area and I went to CVS and picked up anti-acid to aid people that had been teargassed. I ran through the streets reading poems and looking out for wounded. Along the way, a main figure from the finance working group tapped me on the shoulder and demanded I join him on a secret mission, basically he told me that he had a very very large sum of cash in his backpack and needed to safely transport it several blocks away to get it into the hands of OWS lawyers. Michael, a fellow OWS occupier and poet joined us! We were given a number to call in case he was taken and he explained he would pass off the backpack to us so we could continue to run it to the lawyers. Luckily we were able to run it there undeterred. After safely moving the money, Michael and I landed in front of Trinity Church where I read poems to the 40 or so cops present for a half hour, finally screaming at them, “STAND ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY! GO INTO THE PARK AND ARREST YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN BLUE THAT ARE TEAR GASSING AND BRUTALLY ASSAULTING PEACEFUL PROTESTERS. WAKE UP! STAND ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. DO NOT STAND FOR THIS BRUTALITY! BE REVOLUTIONARY!” Surprisingly, a few of the cops seemed to really respond and their eyes twinkled as they crept up closer to me… then Victoria, a key figure in the OWS movement, approached us and explained that the entire park had been tear gassed and that nothing was left. With this, I ran back around and down side streets to look for possibly wounded people. Surprisingly, everyone seemed okay. Later I learned that everyone that had been tear gassed had been arrested. We still do not know in what condition they are as they haven’t been heard from.
I then made my way to Foley square to hear the G.A. that had formed, hung out there for an hour, ate some food, discussed the craziness that was the night with folks and then went back to Zuccotti Park around 8am to see what it looked like. I heard rumors that bulldozers had run over the entire park, trees and all, luckily they were just rumors… HOWEVER, everything we brought to the park is gone. The beautiful library is gone. Our collection of 5,000 books is gone. Our tent that was donated is gone. All the work we’ve put into making it is gone. I’ve spent the last month and a half there. Currently I’m homeless so I’ve been completely dependent on the community that has sprung up there. I don’t know what is next and I don’t know how these next few steps will play out, however, I know that the one thing no amount of cleaning and bullying and policing can destroy is the tenacity of the human spirit. WE WILL OVERCOME!
I am so incredibly tired. I hope this account reads somewhat okay. I love you and will hopefully be getting you more books soon! Please send love poems to the OWS Poetry Anthology! We need your spirits to keep our spirits ablaze!
56 responses to “EMOTIONAL NIGHT IN LIBERTY SQUARE”
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Thank you. I visited the park on Nov. 4 (I live in Queens) and was coming to drop off some hats I knit to Comfort. The first thing I noticed was the Library and I was so moved by it. I hope that we get at least some of the books back. If the last 24+ hours is any indication, these actions by the Mayor and the City have only served to strengthen everyone’s resolve and to draw many, many more people to the cause. It seems it has grown exponentially in just a day, so we can take heart from that. ““Though my soul may set in darkness/It will rise in perfect light./I have loved the stars too fondly/To be fearful of the night.” (Sarah Williams)
2000 years ago, Alexandria burned.
But book-lovers have long memories
so we still remember.
“…Walk with me on the inside of my mind/Up late making my plans
I am going to make my roar loud in the world for those who cannot…
Until I am able, give me your voice. Roar for me.
Live your live like you mean it!”
-Danson Mandela Wambua, Age 12 (From DANSON: The Extraordinary Discovery of an Autistic Child’s Innermost Thoughts & Feelings, St. Lynn’s Press 2009.) Danson is my son and we would like to drop off his book and others to help form your new library–keep us posted how. Blessings!
The Mayor claimed that “there were reports of human feces” in what passes in NYC for a “park”, but clean-up workers did not find any evidence. On the other hand, Wall Street was covered this morning with … how should I put this? … horse manure, from the NYPD’s cossack batallion. Why are the cops not required to clean up the horseshit from their own horses?
Brooklyn Greens/Green Party
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Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Cast your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep have fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few.
– Percy Bysshe Shelley
This battle is not just a battle of lands,
A war of conquest, a balance-of-power war.
It is a battle for the mind of man,
Not only for his body. It will decide
What you, and you, and you, can think and say,
Plan, dream, and hope for in your inmost minds
For the next thousand years.
Decide whether man goes forward toward the light,
Stumbling and striving, clumsy–but a man!–
Or back to the dark ages, the dark gods,
The old barbaric forest that is fear.
Books are not men, and yet they are alive.
They are man’s memory and his aspiration,
The link between his present and his past,
The tools he builds with, all the hoarded thoughts,
Winnowed and sifted from a million minds,
Living and dead, to guide him on his way.
–Stephen Vincent Benet, “They Burned the Books”
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Two little words: thank you
I’m pretty supportive of OWS, but amazed at how many have reported these books destroyed when there was zero evidence that they had been – only evidence that they’d been removed
The Librarians on the ground watched them get tossed into dumpsters. That’s plenty of evidence.
Apparently not. Since they turned up here: http://yfrog.com/nzdr7ndj
I think what we’re dealing with here is people repeating what they’ve heard 2nd, 3rd hand. This article doesn’t even say the librarian saw them thrown into a dumpster. Just that he tried to save the library, that he was forced out, then that the library was gone. All the rest was speculation and joining the dots where they didn’t necessarily connect.
All that said, I’m very glad to hear the books survived.
After two months of dealing with media and how stories and interviews travel, I can say Robert that it’s more complicated than that. Often we report something based on what we know at the time and revise as we go. In this case, all of our reporting stands and was accurate. What others make of that reporting, however, isn’t something we can be held accountable for. For example, I tweeted last night asking if book burning was next, obviously deploying hyperbole for effect. Someone misread that and posted that they WERE burning books. Others pick that up and so on. So in that case, for example, it’s like a game of telephone and even if we start with something accurate or provocative, it can turn into something inaccurate or pointlessly blown out of proportion. The best strategy for you, as a reader, is to seek the original source for everything you read. On the topic of destroyed vs. removed – if riot police came into your home and ripped everything out of it and threw it in a dumpster along with food and trash, you would probably consider your books “destroyed” too.
I’m a writer, Michael, that’s why this issue’s important to me. I agree pretty much with everything you said. My problem is less with the guy who wrote this thinking his books were destroyed (terrible), than with those who spread the story as fact, adding details in the telephone game fashion you describe because it matched points they wanted to make (selection bias).
“The best strategy for you, as a reader, is to seek the original source for everything you read.”
Exactly. That’s pretty much my primary point. And reporters should be making that a maxim at all times. So I also think some pretty bad journalism was practiced today in printing rumors as truth.
My point isn’t to defend the police. Or to criticize OWS. It’s simply to encourage folks to engage their critical thinking skills.
Your story made me cry a single tear. Library destruction is a powerful literary device. I’m going to write poems about it tonight at 6pm in solidarity with reoccupy writers
I second that … what a fairy tale land of make believe and pretend…how sad that people don’t have more substance
Thank you for being there and working so hard. I’m still in shock, please please let us know if there is anything DC can do for you. – Occupy DC Librarians
For every book they arrest, two more will appear.
Watch the mailbox……
also not sure of this but scince you are homless i believe the supreame court ruled that your backpack is your home and they need to serve you with a warrant for search and seasure.
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One of the reasons the people’s library is a potent symbol of the movement and its values is that it is … a library. These are books being destroyed. This is poetry, culture, ideas, and the sharing of knowledge. The meaning couldn’t be clearer.
“The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.”
― Thomas More
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Thanks for the amazing account of the attack on the OWS site and the destruction of the Library. This Ides of November will be Day One for an even greater movement. Read, write and rock on!
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Register as a non profit. Get a PO BOX
Do press releases, interviews.
There are people in buildings who would/could love/ to print flyers for OWS.
Ask for photos to be sent to:
Organise all this -someone there is published/knowledgeable/legal rep for proceeds to go to OWS and not be deluted.ProBono
These are so important to recors history esp when spoken with such heart.
I say collect photos, stories, comments, etc get a attorney to rep you and take it to publishers because they will fight to have it all and make an incredible photo book of OWS collections. SOMEONE WILL DO THIS SOON> Proceeds to OWS.
Posters the works. Get going on this.!
Thank you for your heartfelt account of your resistance and the resistance of others in Liberty Square. I’m appalled at what the police did and throwing a library in the trash is just disgusting. Like many others commenting here, I would be happy to mail some books for v2.0 of the library.
I’m confident that the library and the encampment will be reborn — the movement is too strong to stop. It’s a sign of the one percent’s desperation that they’re resorting to these tactics to try and defeat us. But we already know that each time that they beat and teargas people and destroy occupiers’ property that the movement only grows. They’re on the wrong side of history, it’s not a question whether but of when the 99% will prevail.
I’m feeling excluded by “older”. Does age matter, in the first para? I don’t know your age, and your “older friend” might be younger than me. Words like “older” and “younger” are self-referential and therefore exclusive. What matters is that we are all alive and kicking at the same time. Thanks.
I’m willing to help locate books (physical, digitized), solicit donations of books, etc. leah dot newyorkcity at gmail. But first I hope you can get some much-needed rest.
used the word “older” because the officer used the example “normandy” because of their age…. i love both of the people who i refer to as “older”… it was placed there so people understand why the officer said “normandy” to them an hour before the raid.
I know that Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! has a copy of Brave New World Revisited
The raid on Zuccotti is the latest in a wave of police repressions nationwide organized by local governments. Just a reminder from the powers that be that ALL REPRESSION IS LOCAL. Resist!
THANK YOU, Stephen
There is no clearer symbol of the uncivilized Bloomberg 1% reign than the sight and thought of 5000 books thrown into trash trucks.
No different than Nazi book burning.
It is a corruption contrary to humanism.
And they say we shouldn’t call it fascism.
A library isn’t just a structure or a collection, its the spirit of librarians like you working for your community! The library isn’t gone forever. Take care of yourself and your friends. I love the idea of poems as revolutionary weapons….
How can we send poems to OWS’ Poetry Anthology? Also, Occupy Greensboro, NC is putting out a lit and art ‘zine we’ll gladly send copies of.
stephenjboyer@gmail (DOT) com
Do you know of an estimate of the dollar value of the stuff that was destroyed? That seems like it would make a good starting point for a donation target… Also, where would be a good place to coordinate sending donations? You mentioned a finance working group?
I guess donations of stuff aren’t probably that useful right now, since you guys are temporarily-without-location?
They came like thieves in the night…Bloomberg’s Blue Shirts. They robbed us of our rights, and our possessions… all the while preventing reporters from reporting on the scene. Bloomberg, the self-proclaimed number one defender of free speech (pause for gagging), said in no uncertain terms: “yes, you have the right…the right to remain silent. So just shut up and obey”. This is only the beginning dear Mayor .0001%. This WILL be your legacy- of repression. But you will NOT succeed. These mayors, governors, city councils, police chiefs, and street cops of America need to realize that it is NOT UP TO THEM whether or not Americans peaceably gather, protest, discuss, or demonstrate. It’s up to a document called the US CONSTITUTION. You can beat us and arrest us and tear-gas us, you can try to “permit” us to death….but you can’t kill an idea. You can’t keep down a people’s hopes and dreams for a better life….for us, and for our kids. America USED to work. The people had work. The system worke (sort of). Hey, EVEN the Congress used to work (sometimes). God knows, it was far, far, far from perfect -but at least we all had some share in the struggles AND the rewards. But somewhere along the way, we lost our way. Because now we have an economy and a political system that seems to work only for the rich. With OWS America has found it’s voice, and that voice demands fairness and justice – for ALL. This land IS our land! AND WE WANT IT BACK! We want our LIVES back! We want our FUTURE back! But it’s much more than just words…. it’s much more than politics….. it’s your freakin’ LIFE, and how you want to live it, and how you WILL live it. Find a quiet place somewhere, and consider this: Each of us has only one brief life….one chance….one roll of the dice….and many choices. The time has come to choose….to risk…and to act. If not now…then when? If not you, then….who? You DO have the power my friend….and the choice IS yours. Don’t let your dreams die….
Is there an address we can send books to? I am appalled by the destruction, and have a lot of books I’d love to donate. Please let me know!
Love. SO MUCH LOVE! And we’ll bring books and peanut butter sandwiches, too.
It’s not all gone! I took a copy of Footnotes from Gaza to read and haven’t returned it yet. It will be returned, you do have a library book and you do have a library! We shall overcome!
Awesome – thank you Laura! :)
I just visited NY this past weekend and visited the park each day I was there. I found many enlightened individuals who have a good understanding of what is going on in this country. I am from Texas. Much of this stuff Bloomberg is saying simply isn’t true. The park seemed very safe to me and was easy to navigate through. All the people visiting seemed more than welcome and opposing views were very welcome. Many of these protestors have jobs and are there simply because they believe in what they are protesting about. What they are doing is “occupying” to express their FIRST AMENDMENT rights. The reason that the corporate state is shutting them down is because the message is resonating with many in America and the corporate state is nervous about that. What I find so disturbing is that so many Americans are brainwashed and do not see what is going on. Have Americans forgotten what our founding fathers fought for? The park was a bright ray of sunshine in what is a depressing part of the city (and I like most of New York). The sad thing is the American people are so conditioned by the corporate state many will agree with what is being done to these protestors. It was very cowardly of Bloomberg and the police to go in in the middle of the night with little warning. The corporate state is scared of the protestors message and that is why they are using these tactics to shut them down. I do hope the American people wake up before it is too late.I flew from Beaumont, TX just to see for myself. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Water Street. I found the people at the park charming and many well informed. I also know several people involved in the movement and they are very intelligent. So many do not seem to see what is really going on here…we only have the right to protest if WE DON”T MAKE TOO MUCH NOISE. OWS has a lot of vision…the points they are making are correct about what is happening in this country. And they are making the corporate state REALLY NERVOUS. Pay attention. Read up on what happens when a country is heading towards fascism.
Thank you for writing your commentary on the night. And thank you for using poetry as a revolutionary tool.
Let us know if/when donations need to start. Heartbreaking-but with help, the knowledge can/should return!
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Thank you Stephen and all of the full-time occupying librarians. This movement is strong and it is growing. The People’s Library will be rebuilt and we continue this revolt.
Thank you for writing this beautiful account of your evening Stephen – I just spread the word. See you soon. <3
I am in shock that the People’s Library is gone. How could the police and the politicians and Mayor Bloomberg do that. Think about how many poor schools in the city could use those books. Think about the value of literature in the world. It is disgusting that they trashed those books. This outrage needs to be known. NYC and Bloomberg need to restore the books.