On March 17th, the six month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, about 800 protesters held a celebratory party at Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the American Occupy movement. At 11:30pm, police announced that they were closing the park, in direct violation of laws allowing access to the park 24 hours a day. Scores of police cleared the park with brutal tactics. A large group of protesters refused to leave, citing the accessibility laws, and police created a human chain around the protesters and proceeded with a mass arrest.
Protesters did not plan to sleep at the park, but were committed to spending the night there. Police smashed one man’s head into a window so hard that the window was shattered. One woman, while in zip ties, had a seizure as protesters shouted for the zip ties to be removed in order to provide medical attention. The medical status of these protesters is unknown at this time. As of this writing, the Huffington Post reported that police didn’t have a full count of arrests, but some reports indicate between 25-100 arrests were made. Police blocked the park with metal barricades and it is unknown when they will re-open the park.
This is not the first incident this week of using police brutality to suppress the Occupy movement. In St. Louis, the four-day regional Occupy the Midwest conference was in full swing, with over 600 Occupy protesters coming from at least 18 states to participate beginning March 15. Occupy protesters participated in rallies, marches, and workshops.
Participants in Occupy the Midwest attempted to occupy a city park that night. The park closed at 10pm, and at 10:30pm Eddie Roth, the city’s director of public safety, announced that the protesters were not allowed to use the park due to lack of permit. As protesters were leaving the park and marching in the street, police violently assaulted multiple protesters using batons to their faces and pepper spray. Also, the tires of the Occupy media van were slashed. 15 protesters were arrested, with two sent to the hospital. All have since been released after bail was posted by donations solicited online.
“In one move, the St. Louis police, effectively, assaulted at least 18 cities at once,” said Sugar Russell, Occupy Chicago member.