Occupy Wall Street, angry over eviction, occupies a new corner
Hundreds of supporters of Occupy Wall Street vowed Tuesday to keep up their protests, convening at a busy corner for a meeting to discuss their next move; the city, meanwhile, appeared headed for a legal showdown over its eviction of protesters from the group's encampment.
A hearing was scheduled later on protesters' quest for an order to prohibit the city from banning tents, sleeping bags and campers from Zuccotti Park, a privately owned park that was cleared of protesters in a surprise early morning raid.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had hoped to reopen the park to the public at 8 a.m., but at a news conference early Tuesday he said he wanted the issue of the restraining order to be settled before his next move.
As a result, a handful of people who had bypassed police barriers and entered the park in lower Manhattan after a power-cleaning were shooed out by authorities, and the space remained off-limits at least for the time being.
But angry and often distraught Occupy Wall Street supporters moved themselves a few blocks away to the corner of Canal Street and 6th Avenue, where they began planning a general assembly meeting to plan their next move. Some also went to Foley Square, marching past City Hall en route.
"Today it's about reclaiming our park," Natas Rivera, one of the people who marched to Foley Square, told a reporter.
Rivera, 25, had rushed in from Allentown, Pa., overnight after he got word while at an Occupy camp in Allentown of the raid in Zuccotti Park. He arrived in New York about 2:30 a.m., at the height of the eviction, and he vowed to stay around until protesters got back into Zuccotti Park.
Hundreds more protesters, many carrying American flags, then marched to Canal and 6th, where they quickly settled into another park. People stood on walls, and some had temporary structures set up with signs reading "Liberate, Occupy."
"We are unstoppable; another world is possible!" some chanted.
Garrett Perkins, 29, was among the protesters. He came to New York from Chugiak, Alaska, three weeks ago, and had managed to get out of Zuccotti Park with his tent and bags strapped to him. Perkins said that, as soon as he saw police converging on the park overnight, he packed his belongings and strapped them to his body to ensure they weren't seized.
Perkins then tied himself to four other protesters to try to hamper police. He accused officers of punching him in the jaw as he prayed and tried to remain with other protesters. "I was shocked that it could happen," he said. "I got punched in the face while praying in a park."
The reaction from people commuting to work past the park early Tuesday was mixed. Many stopped to snap pictures of the suddenly clean space. One of them, Bob Rogers, 49, who works in insurance, said he wasn't taking sides but felt that the protesters had "lost their focus" by shifting from anti-greed marches to settling into a campground.
A man in a business suit walked past the line of helmeted cops lining Broadway, clapped his hands and said, "Thank you NYPD."
But Nelson Falu, a 36-year-old concierge who had just gotten off an overnight shift from an apartment building in Battery Park City, said he was disheartened to see the park empty again. Before the protest began Sept. 17, he said, the park was just an empty thoroughfare. Occupy Wall Street brought life, discussions and arguments from unlikely quarters -- guys in suits supporting the cause while "protester types were whining," said Falu.
"I like the way people always had something to say," he said.
Monday night, working the night shift, Falu had heard the police helicopters and watched the park cleared on Occupy Wall Street's website and by reading Twitter updates. It was sad, said Falu. "It's like someone doing it to your house."
A statement put out by supporters of Occupy Wall Street said the eviction would not stop the movement. "We are appalled, but not deterred," it said. "Today we are stronger than we were yesterday. Tomorrow we will be stronger still."
-- Nathaniel Popper, Geraldine Baum, and Tina Susman in New York
Photo: Occupy Wall Street supporters gather in a new spot after being cleared from Zuccotti Park in New York. Credit: Nathaniel Popper/Los Angeles Times