Full video of the press conference as recorded by The Other 99 Ustream. The conference starts at about 15 minutes in.
Author Archives: Michael
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Occupy Wall St. Librarians Demand Accountability from Bloomberg for Destruction of Thousands of Books and NYers’ Rights to Free Expression
Packed Press Conference Documents Ruins of over 3,000 Books by Raid
The People’s Library was not only forcibly removed from Liberty Square in the early hours of November 15th and destroyed but – since the raid – has been harassed and prevented from operating in the park by the Bloomberg Administration. Only about 1,300 books – a third of the stock – were returned to them, they said, and around a third of those were damaged beyond repair. Only about 800 are still usable. About 3,000 books are still unaccounted for. Photos of the books are available here http://bit.ly/u4QeTP
Civil Rights lawyer, Norman Siegel, opened today’s press conference, at a table of damaged books, with his statement articulating the demands of the OWS Librarians: “The Bloomberg Administration needs to replace every book missing or damaged. Together about 3,161 books. We have the titles and authors. The Bloomberg Administration needs to acknowledge that a wrong was committed and that this can never happen again. We need a space to recreate the people’s library.”
Hawa Allan, a Fellow of Columbia Law School, added, “the People’s Library represents the town hall spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Referring to the piles of destroyed books on the table, she also noted “This display is a chilling image of the attempt to destroy free expression.”
13 Librarians from the People’s Library were in attendance, and several spoke, talking about the important role the library played in the movement, as well as their own experiences of the raid and the aftermath. In response to questions from the press, the librarians stressed that their request is not about money, but rather about accountability and that they are asking the Bloomberg Administration to replace the books they destroyed, not write a check.
People’s Librarian, Betsy Fagin, stated, “What’s important isn’t just the cost of the books that were destroyed . . . The People’s Library was built entirely of generosity, of community spirit, of love.” Michele Hardesty described her visit to retrieve some of the seized books, “It was clear from what we saw at the sanitation garage that our books—the community’s books, these donated books—were treated as trash.”
People’s Librarian Danny Norton called the destruction of the library by the Bloomberg Administration a “crusade to destroy a conversation” and People’s Librarian Frances Mercanti-Anthony stated, “You can take our books. You can take our park. But you can’t take our spirit. And we’re not going anywhere.” In closing, Norman Siegel was asked about any planned legal action against the Bloomberg Administration, and he responded that he wasn’t going to answer any hypothetical questions, but said “in the words of Clint Eastwood, make my day.”
# # #
The People’s Library: CALL TO ACTION
Contact Mayor Bloomberg and ask him to respond to our three demands: 1. Replace every missing/damaged book, 2. Acknowledge that a wrong was committed and that this can never happen again, 3. A space to recreate the library. You can call 311 or 212-639-9675 from outside NYC, or email him here: www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html
Today’s Press Conference
The People’s Library called on the Bloomberg Administration to accept responsibility for the destruction of the library today in a press conference with civil rights attorney Norman Seigel, Gideon Oliver of the National Lawyers Guild, and Hawa Allan a Fellow at Columbia Law School. The Library is calling on the Bloomberg Administration to replace the both the library and the 80% of the books that were destroyed.
Seated alongside the librarians at a table covered in books damaged during the raid, Seigel said:
“The Bloomberg Administration needs to replace every book missing or damaged — not usable. Together about 3,161 books. We have the titles and authors.
The Bloomberg Administration needs to acknowledge that a wrong was committed and that this can never happen again.
We need a space to recreate the people’s library.”
Official Press Release will follow.
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For this event: William Scott, 412-390-6510
Occupy Wall Street Librarians Address Bloomberg for Destroying Books
Over 4k Books, Documents, Were Trashed by NYPD & Dept. of Sanitation in Raid
OWS Library Staff Recovers Books and Supplies, Less Than One-Fifth is Usable
What: Press conference to address the destruction of the OWS People’s Library by Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the 11/15 raid.
*Photo Opportunity* All of the recovered, destroyed books will be at the press conference.
Where: 260 Madison Ave, 20th Floor, between 38th and 39th St
When: Wednesday, November 23, at 12:00 noon
Who: Norman Siegel will host and moderate. Speakers: Gideon Oliver of the National Lawyers Guild, Hawa Allan a Fellow at Columbia Law School, and Occupy Wall Street Librarians from the People’s Library. Law professors from Columbia, members of the American Library Association, various writers and others have been invited.
So far, the People’s Library has received 1,099 books back from the Dept. of Sanitation after last week’s raid (some of which were not library books to begin with), and out of these, about 800 are still usable. About 2,900 books are still unaccounted for, and less than one-fifth of the original collection is still usable. These numbers may change slightly when the People’s Library gets an exact count of the recent (and final) retrievals from Sanitation, but not considerably.
“The People’s Library was destroyed by NYPD acting on the authority of Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the night of the raid. In addition to all our supplies, laptops, and tent, they threw roughly 4,000 books into garbage trucks and dumpsters that were adjacent to the park, as well as assorted rare documents that were associated with OWS,” says William Scott, an Occupy Wall Street Librarian.
Watch video of the NYPD and Dept. of Sanitation destroying the OWS People’s Library tent and throwing away all the books. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTkUjQwHf4I
Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to more than 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. For more visit www.occupywallst.org
# # #
Media are picking up the story of the violent attack on students and faculty inside a CUNY campus last night and a petition is up calling for the Chancellor of CUNY to resign. boingboing covers it here. Chronical of Higher Education covers the story here. The NYT cityroom blog covers the events here and reports that when officers began attacking, students on higher floors dropped books on the police from above. In light of recent events, I can’t think of a more appropriate response considering:
- CUNY Public Safety took up arms against students and faculty.
- CUNY students and faculty were denied entry into a meeting about tuition raises.
- CUNY students and faculty were arrested on CUNY grounds for peacefully protesting.
This event makes me question why CUNY has a police force and who do they work for? I work at CUNY, inside the Mina Rees Library, (though not for the library) and I interact with CUNY Public Safety officers every day. I’ve watched them save the life of one of my colleagues. I’ve taken First Aid classes from them. In my workplace, they have been part of the CUNY family. But now, CUNY has ordered them to take up batons against students and the officers at Baruch have complied.
A faculty statement against this violent response to nonviolent protesters went up last night. But this egregious attack on freedom of expression and student’s rights demands more. This demands an immediate response from all students, faculty and staff of CUNY and all educational institutions in solidarity with the students and faculty who were arrested last night and in solidarity with the students who were pepper-sprayed at UC Davis. They have seized our books, they have told us we can’t make music or read poetry, or assemble in the public plaza and have conversations, and now they are attacking us inside the universities across the country.
The CUNY Public Safety officers cannot and must not be used as a tool to prevent free speech. To take action, you can call the office of the CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein at 212-794-5311 or email him at email@example.com. The President of Baruch College is Mitchel B. Wallerstein and he can be reached at 646-312-3310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The following points come from the Faculty statement, and can be used as a suggestion when you call and email:
- Deplore any use of violence against nonviolent student protesters, anywhere.
- Call upon the CUNY administration to support and engage respectfully with those students, educators, and community members who are working to open up spaces for protest, dissent, and discussion.
- Declare that the use of any violence whatsoever against nonviolent student protesters will never be tolerated at CUNY.
- Insist that administrators at both the CUNY-wide level and at individual campuses not call upon any outside police forces, including the New York City Police Department, or any other city, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, in order to disperse students who are engaged in nonviolent protests.
CUNY is the nation’s largest urban public university system and consists of 23 educational institutions here in New York City. In the past, CUNY was literally the People’s University, offering open and tuition-free education to the poor and working class. However since 1975, CUNY has charged tuition and has increasingly made admission and attendance more and more difficult. The CUNY Board of Trustees has repeatedly voted to increase tuition, making access to this public institution more difficult. Campuses that used to be open to all have installed security barriers and turnstiles, and partnerships with corporations are privatizing this public educational space. At the very first CUNY General Assembly, held at Hunter College – CUNY Public Safety officers were ordered to deny entry to CUNY and Hunter students, faculty and staff who sought to enter the building and have a peaceful meeting, even though they all had proper ID. This denial of entry was based entirely on the political character of their speech. This disturbing trend at CUNY must be stopped before the people lose their university completely.
Update 3:30: Frances has just sent a photo of the Upper East Side branch of the People’s Library and says:
“It’s a festive fall day up here. The drum circle is active. We’re hungry and asked the upper east side to donate grilled cheese sandwiches so we’ll see how that turns out. The people seem very unhappy that the protestors have moved into their neighborhood for the day. We were yelled at by an elderly couple a block away from the park and I responded, “The occupiers have metrocards ma’am, and we’re not afraid to use them.”
In response to the drum circle, the NYPD has closed E 79th St. near the Mayor’s home and they are now describing it a “frozen zone.” A little research online shows that a “frozen zone” is usually an area where the NYPD use their authority to suspend the law in order to maintain the law. The declaration of a “frozen zone” amounts to declaring martial law or creating a state of exception and has previously been used by the NYPD during terrorist threats. Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones has reported on the “frozen zone” being used to deny reporters access to Liberty Plaza. So what is “frozen” in these zones?
Today, the People’s Library is displaying books that were destroyed by NYPD and DSNY on 11/15/11 during Bloomberg’s attack on #OccupyWallStreet. The books are currently in front of the iconic New York Public Library branch on 5th Ave and 42nd St.
It is Intergenerational Day at Liberty Plaza. Representatives from the Elder Council will lead a worship service in Liberty Square at 3:30pm. Following the worship service, elders will host a conversation with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and other interested individuals at 5:30pm at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South).
And at 2pm today, occupiers begin a 24 hour drum circle at Bloomberg’s home: 17 E 79th St. The mobile People’s Library will be on site! Everyone is welcome – bring something to make noise with. Join the Facebook event here. Updates on all of today’s events here. Next up, occupying Bloomberg’s house in Bermuda for the winter?
In response to violent attacks on peaceful protesters at UC Davis, students sit silently while Chancellor Linda Katehi walks to her car.
Matt Taibbi’s take on OWS captured a part of why I went down to Liberty Plaza and got involved:
“We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.
If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.
That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.
There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.
But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it’s at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned “democracy,” tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.”
A lot of people are just now starting to pay attention to the Occupy movement – the folks who don’t pay much attention to the news can’t avoid it any longer and I have a feeling that a lot of you feel this way too.
I can’t speak for the library, just myself – but this is exactly how I’ve always felt – that our priorities are wrong. Just plain wrong. Here’s part of my list:
Credit scores, mortgages, 8 hour days in cubicles under flickering lights, the lesser of two evil politicians for office, shopping seasons instead of nature seasons, individuals commuting in cars alone on 6 lane roads, blowing off the tops of mountains to power Times Square billboards, undemocratic workplaces, endless consumption of the next-big-thing-gadget, American exceptionalism, us vs. them, them vs. us, good guys and bad guys, limits on freedom for ‘our own safety’, security and surveillance, target marketing, viral advertising, blaming the poor, factory farms, rent increases, buildings sitting empty while people go homeless, foreclosures so banks can get rich, CEOs living like kings on the backs of workers, 2.3 million U.S. Americans in prison, U.S. black people imprisoned at 6 times the rate of whites, conflating the ‘freedom’ to buy something 24-hours-a-day with Freedom, 1 in 100 U.S. black women in prison, government run executions, skyrocketing obesity in the U.S. while children in the Horn of Africa die of starvation, U.S. funding of foreign military police that are used to crush dissent, and that insidious idea that unless you’re buying-in or making a wage, or working for a company that you simply do not exist . . .
I couldn’t take it anymore. And maybe some of you felt the same. And “they” are terrified of that moment when we cross that line, when we decide to go from being sick of it to saying “no.” So when you sit down and refuse to participate any longer, they yell “You can’t opt-out, it stops the gears from turning!” and they pepper-spray you and arrest you. What’s the most threatening thing to the system as it stands? When, as Taibbi puts it, you go on strike from your own culture.
The 11/15/11 eviction of #OccupyWallStreet from Liberty Plaza involved attacks on free speech beyond the destruction of our library and silencing of the occupiers voices. The New York Press Club is calling for an investigation into press suppression during the eviction:
“The Bloomberg administration appears to have made a conscious decision to exclude the press from Tuesday’s Zuccotti Park purge. If true, the New York Press Club strongly condemns what would seem to be a strategic decision to cloak potentially volatile police activity from public view.
While attempting to reach the scene, a number of reporters were shoved away and several were arrested in areas distant from the park itself. Police reportedly did not acknowledge the journalistic status of those reporters even after identities were clearly established.
“. . . My friend Liz Danzico (@bobulate) and I are doing an impromptu #OWSBookmobile tour to help rebuild the library. We’re starting with our own book from our piles of press copies and making several stops across Brooklyn starting at 1pm today to pick up other donations, then dropping all the books off at the #OWSLibrary.”
Follow the progress of the Bookmobile on Twitter with the hashtag #OWSBookmobile.
Amanda Marcotte writes about books as speech for Good: “To some, such intense interest in a library seems overblown. The library is a small fraction of the movement, and it may seem callous to worry so much about replaceable items when live people are being arrested and roughed up by the police. But the truth is that books matter. “No book ever pushed a cop,” says writer and journalist Jeff Sharlet, who started a group called Occupy Writers to support the movement. “Books are speech. Bloomberg has, in effect, stumbled his way into a war on books. So far in history, nobody’s ever won that war for good.”
Nicolaus Mills writes for the Guardian about the 1932 police destruction of the Bonus Army encampment: “In 1932, a police and Army raid on the Bonus Army of first world war veterans, who had come to Washington, DC to ask for immediate payment of their Adjusted Service Certificates (whic everyone called their bonus), resulted in an Occupy Wall Street-like rout. But in the end, the vets were the ones who prevailed and gained public sympathy.”
boingboing covers our article on Bloomberg’s library hypocrisy with the headline “One week after attending NY Public Library gala, Bloomberg destroys #OWS library containing honorees’ books (and his own)”
Laurie Penny writes for the New Statesman about why Bloomberg has ordered the NYPD to kidnap books:
“When the news of the vandalism of the Occupy Wall Street library came through, Twitter was alight with outrage. Even the most dribblingly obnoxious right-wing troll finds it hard to argue when people tell him trashing books is bad karma. Such was the uproar that the Mayor’s office tweeted a photo of what appeared to be part of the OWS library, stacked in a sanitation department garage, ready for protesters to pick up on Wednesday, if they were polite about it.
The image looks like nothing other than a hostage photo, which is exactly what it is: here is your library, more or less intact. We will give it back if you hand over your collective future without argument. Just leave it in the trashcan on the corner of Wall Street.
It occurs to me that the impounding of books is a subtler and more appropriate metaphor for how culture is policed in modern times than the burning or destruction of books. Across the developed world, as austerity programmes kick in to finance the cataclysmic self-indulgence of the super-rich, it is libraries, schools and universities that are being priced out of the reach of ordinary people.”
On Monday, November 7, 2011 Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in attendance at one of New York City’s top cultural and social events: The New York Public Library’s Library Lions gala. The individuals honored as Library Lions are, according to nypl.org, “distinguished individuals who have made significant cultural and educational achievements to increase our understanding of the world around us.” The 2011 honorees included such literary luminaries as Tony Kushner, Isabel Wilkerson, Jonathan Franzen, Stacy Schiff, Ian McEwan, and the songwriter Natalie Merchant.
On Monday, November 15, 2011 the books of many of those Library Lions mingled with broken shelves, ripped tents, and smashed computers in the aftermath of the raid on Zuccotti Park. The raid, authorized by Mayor Bloomberg, saw, among other things, the OWS People’s Library thrown in the trash. Perhaps, as Mayor Bloomberg enjoyed the library festivities on the 7th he was already planning the action that would destroy a different library on the 15th, or perhaps he was just enjoying the photo opportunity as he exchanged pleasantries with the authors who he held in high enough esteem as to have their works tossed into garbage trucks.
If it was Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to check out a copy of his book Bloomberg by Bloomberg, from the People’s Library, then it was his right to do so, and if he wanted to read Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom he could have borrowed a copy of that as well. Yet, checking out thousands of books at once was highly inconsiderate, and his treatment of these materials is unacceptable. The librarians specifically ask patrons not to check out reference materials so that they may be used by others, not to damage archival material, and not to destroy a place where one and all can come and find books on a range of subjects from classics to economics to children’s books. Mayor Bloomberg has expressed that he intends to return the People’s Library to the people, but based on what we have seen so far, as we have attempted to retrieve the library, we fear that Mayor Bloomberg is setting himself up for some serious overdue and replacement fees. Mayor Bloomberg’s decision, that led to the destruction of the People’s Library, is an act unbecoming of any citizen in a democracy, and is even less appropriate for an individual holding public office. Some may suggest that the People’s Library, as with other groups in Zuccotti park, was given a warning by the police before they began their raid, but the idea that removing thousands of books (not to mention other materials) can be accomplished quickly, after 1 a.m., with the trains frozen, and with routes in and out filled with police officers making arrests, is plainly absurd.
Not long ago people across the country were in an uproar over a man’s attempt to burn a holy book, but Mayor Bloomberg tossed dozens of holy books into dumpsters on the 15th. Now that roaring is coming from the lions, Patience and Fortitude, who guard the entry to the very library where Mayor Bloomberg cavorted on the 7th. The 99% have shown tremendous patience and fortitude as individuals such as Mayor Bloomberg have used their money to exert an undemocratic influence over our politics and lives, but we sit idly no longer.
Mayor Bloomberg clearly prides himself on his deeds and actions as a philanthropist, and it is likely that he had a lovely evening on November 7 at the event honoring the Library Lions. Yet his actions on November 15 make clear that when it comes to supporting the democratic ideals behind libraries, Bloomberg is just lying.
– The People’s Library Working Group
I want to write all about the day in detail – our working group (aka, our library family) spent the day of action spread out all over the city working independently and also working together. We had our online and off-site folks in charge of keeping the blog and twitter updated and running info for those who were on the street. We were marching; setting up the library at Liberty, Union Square, Foley Square and on the Brooklyn Bridge; running mobile libraries from carts; coming up with awesome chants; meeting people and taking donations; telling our story and so much more. At the end of the day we stopped at an Irish bar across from the WTC site and had dinner, beer and a meeting. There’s so much to write, and I’m exhausted and have to work/school tomorrow. So instead, here are some of my photos. <3 and solidarity.
Full resolution slideshow here.
(This post will be updated as resources and news become available)
7:50 The People’s Library is OPEN on the Brooklyn Bridge. Chanting, “Banks got bailed out, books got thrown out.”
6:51 “Hey this is James (super tall corduroy man!) From the library and I wanted some to post on the blog that at WBAI 99.5 NYC from 9 to 10 I will be on air with Jim (the barrel guy) and I will be taking calls with him and discussing ows and the library and that people should tune in!”
4:58 The advocacy group Common Cause has released a statement calling on the Mayor and City to replace our books. Our post here.
3:34 A People’s Librarian reports on police violence at Liberty Plaza.
3:00 Reports from onsite are that the police have dekettled and reopened the park. For now.
2:01: Liberty Plaza is under siege by NYPD. Occupiers are kettled in the park.
1:43 A People’s Librarian in action. Handing out Bartleby at the action.
2:21: Police deny People’s Mobile Library entry into Liberty, even though Brookfield staff ok’d it.
11:29: Barricades are down on at least one side of Liberty!
11:05: NYPD announce 60 arrests so far this morning (via WNYC).
10:47: Video of Douglass Rushkoff’s Speech from November 9th is up.
10:40: Transcript of Jonathan Lethem’s Speech from November 7th is up.
10: 30am: The People’s Library is mobile today, find us on the streets!
9:30am: The hashtag #OccupyMap is tracking locations of NYPD. #N17 is the tag of the day. Join and share the N17 event on Facebook. CUNY Students, Staff and Faculty are walking out today at campuses across the city, see Occupy CUNY on Facebook, the Occupy Hunter web site. The following livestreams are covering direct actions in New York: OccupyNYC & Occupy Wall Street Independent Media Team & The Other 99
Schedule for Today
7am: Shut Down Wall Street
All Day: Strike & Walk-Out
Students from universities across the city walk out of class. Walkouts will be occurring all day on different campuses, but will converge on Union Square at 3PM and then will march down to Foley Square to meet the rest of the protesters.
3pm: Occupy the Subway
We will gather at 3:00pm at 16 central subway hubs and take our own
stories to the trains, using the “People’s Mic”
5pm: Mass rally at Foley Square
Take the Square, Festival of Lights on Brooklyn Bridge