By Colin Moynihan and Corey Kilgannon / New York Times / November 15, 2011
The New York City police began clearing Zuccotti Park of the Occupy Wall Street protesters about 1 a.m. Tuesday, telling the people there that the camp would be “cleared and restored” before the morning and that any demonstrator who did not leave would be arrested.
The protesters resisted with chants of “Whose park? Our park!” as the police began moving in and tearing down tents. The protesters rallied around an area known as “the kitchen” near the middle of the park and began building barricades with tables and pieces or scrap wood.
Dozens of officers moved into the one-square-block park from Broadway. As they did, dozens of protesters linked arms and shouted “No retreat, no surrender,” “this is our home” and “barricade!” There were no immediate reports of arrests.
Before the police moved in, they set up a battery of klieg lights and aimed them into the park. A police captain wearing a visored helmet walked down Liberty Street with an announcement: “The city has determined that the continued occupation Zuccotti Park poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard.” The protesters were ordered to “to immediately remove all private property” and that if they interfered with the police operation, they would be arrested. Property that was not removed, the police said, would be sent to the dump.
Some of the protesters grabbed their possessions. “They’re not getting our tents down,” one man shouted. People milled around, and some headed to the edges of the park.
The action comes as other cities’ police forces have begun evacuating similar protest camps, sometimes violently
A handful of protestors first unrolled sleeping bags and blankets in Zuccotti Park on the night of Sept. 17, but in the weeks that followed, the park became densely packed with tents and small tarp villages that was shelter for the perhaps 200 protesters.
The protest inspired similar ones nationwide and attracted celebrities and well-known performers. It became a tourist attraction, inspired more than $500,000 in donations and gained the support of labor unions and elected officials while creating division within City Hall and the Police Department
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has struggled with how to respond. He repeatedly made clear that he does not support the demonstrators’ arguments or their tactics, but he has also defended their right to protest and in recent days and weeks, has sounded increasingly exasperated, especially in the wake of growing complaints from neighbors about how the protest has disrupted the neighborhood and hurt local businesses.
The mayor met daily with several deputies and commissioners, as more business owners complaining and editorials lampooning him as gutless, the mayor’s patience wore thin.