AMY GOODMAN: Last night, the Democracy Now! team rushed down to Zuccotti Park to cover the police crackdown. It began just after 1:00 a.m. We were there until the early hours of the morning, coming in to do this broadcast. We witnessed the arrests in the streets and made it into the square just as police were dismantling the tents, as well as sanitation workers, and hauling away protesters’ belongings in dump trucks. This is our report.
PROTESTERS: We are the 99 percent! You are the 99 percent!
AARON MATÉ: Tell us your name, if you want to, and then what happened.
ALEX HALL: My name is Alex Hall. And I basically heard a tip from reporters. They were outside the park about an hour before it happened. And we asked them, "Hey, what’s going on?" And they said that cops were planning on, you know, clearing the whole park out.
So, you know, an hour later, they basically surrounded the park, at least 100 to 200 cops, and with the shields on there across their faces. And they basically put up—they put up huge beams of light into the park, on every side. They had about three beams on every side of the park. Got super bright. And they came with a loudspeaker. There was a ton of them, at least 100 to 200. And they lined up in front of the park, on all sides of the park, where they lined up in the front, on Trinity Avenue. And they came with the loudspeaker. They said, "Listen, we’re going to need you guys to clear the park. We’re going to take out the tents and get the sanitation team in here. And you can come back to the park without your tents. You won’t be able to have your tents in the park."
And they basically started pushing people. They started tearing down tents. They started to break them down, and without even checking if anybody was in the tents. But they started pushing everybody around. Every—
AARON MATÉ: Without checking if anybody was inside the tents, they started just breaking them down?
ALEX HALL: They basically started pulling them and stepping on them, yeah. And everybody started to leave the park. And this is where we are, basically. Everybody kind of rushed out. They started pepper-spraying people. I got—I have milk here. I actually was helping somebody get the spray out of their eyes. And this is where we are right now.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Please clear the street and the sidewalk!
AARON MATÉ: Where are we supposed to go? Where do we go?
POLICE OFFICER 2: Don’t block the street.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Keep the area closed so pedestrians and vehicles can go.
AARON MATÉ: There was a confrontation over here. So now we’re still on the sidewalk, and police are pushing these protesters back. They told us to get off the street, so people complied, and now we’re being pushed further and further away from Zuccotti Park, from Liberty Plaza, where just moments ago protesters were cleared.
Hey, Hero. What’s going on?
HERO VINCENT: We’re sitting here. They’re trying to block us. They’re pushing us to the wall. I got pepper-sprayed straight in the face. You see, I’m still looking. They can’t stop me. They can’t stop us. This is a sign. He pepper-sprayed me, straight like that. You see this? You see this? Twice. Twice I’m pepper-sprayed, and I’m still looking at you, [inaudible] and clear. Sure and clear, I’m still staring at you. That’s a sign that they can’t stop us, that we all see what’s really going on and that they can’t blind us. They can’t pull wool over our eyes. They can’t put nothing in our eyes that’s going to blind what’s going on here. And the same goes for all the people who are out there.
AARON MATÉ: Where were you when the police first moved in?
HERO VINCENT: I was two blocks away, two blocks away, didn’t know what was going on. And then I got a phone call. "Where are you at? We’re being raided." So I had to run, to this, straight into this.
AARON MATÉ: And what do you tell people right now?
HERO VINCENT: What do I tell people? That this is ridiculous. Soon, soon, we’re coming back. They’re not leaving. That’s—get that straight right now. We’re not going nowhere. A lot of us is going to be here overnight. A lot of us will be here for the rest of the week. A lot of us will be here until the new year comes. A lot of us will be here ’til we see a new day, and that will—you can quote me on that.
AARON MATÉ: So tell me what happened.
PROTESTER 1: I was standing on the outside of the crowd. They started really beating up on this girl pretty badly with their riot shields. And while people tried to pull her out, they sprayed pepper sprayed like directly into this little clump of people. I was right on the side, but I’m OK.
AARON MATÉ: So what’s going on now is a familiar scene. We’re getting pushed farther and farther away from Zuccotti Park. At every block, police are saying to protesters, "You have the choice to be arrested or move further and further away."
POLICE OFFICER 3: You’ve got to move right now, or you’re going to be arrested! If you don’t move out of here right now, you’re going to be arrested.
AARON MATÉ: Where do they move to? Where do they move to?
POLICE OFFICER 3: Let’s go! Let’s go! Push this out! Push this out!
AARON MATÉ: So, this commanding officer right here, telling everyone to push people further away. Now looks like everyone on the inside here is going to be—is going to be arrested. Look, somebody arrested right in front of me.
PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!
AARON MATÉ: So now we’re back where we started off, a block from Zuccotti Park. When we got here, there were throngs of demonstrators, protesting the raiding of Zuccotti Park, Liberty Plaza. They were pushed further and further away. Activists that were on the sidewalk were told to keep moving down. And they were asking, "Where should we go?" And they were just told to move. What we witnessed was a very forceful interaction, with police even refusing to tolerate activists staying on the sidewalk. Obviously wanted to get people as far away from Zuccotti Park as possible. And so now we’re seeing these trucks behind us pulling away. They have arrested many people. And so, as we tried to come back here to this area, just a block from Zuccotti Park, we spoke to one of the activists that had been arrested.
Hey, tell me what happened.
ARRESTED PROTESTER: I was being pushed and shoved, and I had no way to move. And the lady firsthand singled me out and pinned me down and said, "Her. Arrest her." Pushed me facedown into the sidewalk, and now I’m arrested.
PROTESTERS: New York, Cairo, Wisconsin! Push us down, we’ll rise again!
AARON MATÉ: So tell us what happened.
PROTESTER 2: It’s your typical break-up of any protest, some a bit more peaceful done than a little bit others. I mean, bottom line is, during the day, the officers started—ended up putting on their gear—kind of first inquiry that something might happen. Then all of the vendors that were around shut up and closed like any other given day, like they were all closing up, but they all did it at once. Something was going on. Next thing you know, we’re told to leave the park. Fliers are being handed out, tell us the reasons of which why and that the tents got to go, grab our belongings, vacate as quickly as possible. Then the bullhorn started coming on. People started—the announcements started coming. If you’re going to go, go ahead and go. If you’re going to stand and you’re going to hold our ground, they’re going to be in the kitchen area. So they all are in a soft lock arm right now.
AARON MATÉ: How many are in there right now?
PROTESTER 2: I’m going to say there’s roughly about, give or take, 250.
AARON MATÉ: Protesters. Then how many police?
PROTESTER 2: I’m going to say there’s maybe three police officers, at least, for every protester.
AARON MATÉ: And tell us what you saw with the tents. We were hearing that police had announced they were coming in to clear the tents.
PROTESTER 2: From my visual observations, from what I can tell, simply, they would push in a little bit—sorry—they would push in a little bit, and they would start ripping tents out.
PROTESTER 3: The NYPD has no idea what they’ve done. This is—this is the worst possible action they could have taken before the anniversary, because this is either going to sway in different—this is definitely going to sway in different people. And that’s what it boils down to. Everyone who is out there that saw this on TV and said it was no big deal and that we were just goofing around, do you think the NYPD would have destroyed our camp if we were just goofing around, if we weren’t some sort of threat to them? We are a health and safety risk? We have doctors and medics in there assessing the situation at all times. If there was any health or safety risk, we would have handled it. We had our own—we have our own fire department. We have our own security team. We have our own medic team—certified EMTs, doctors and nurses, ready to help. Sanitation crews, cleaning the park 24/7, they never stop. We were never a health or safety risk, nor were we a fire hazard. Every tent, almost every tent, had a fire extinguisher in them. So, don’t believe their lies.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to George, who’s locked down in the park right now. Can you tell us how many people are there? This is Amy from Democracy Now!, by the way. So, and just say then—tell us everything that is happening. We’re recording what you’re saying. Just one sec. Go ahead.
GEORGE: My name George [inaudible]. I’m in the park right now. I am in the kitchen right now. The cops have arrived in the kitchen. OK, there’s about maybe 150 to 200 surrounding us in the kitchen. Our chanting going on. They’ve cut down some trees [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: So, what’s happened with the tents, and have people locked arms?
GEORGE: Yes, people have locked arms around us in the kitchen. And then, [inaudible] behind the people locked [inaudible] and people locked around—lock their arms [inaudible] I think behind when the people locked arms [inaudible].
AARON MATÉ: All right, so now we’re right in front of these dump trucks that are taking away protesters’ belongings. They have dismantled the tents. And we’ve seen these lines of police just throwing away the belongings of protesters. And now, this one right here in front of us is full to the brim. It’s packed with protesters’ belongings.
MATT BALDWIN: The cops are beating people!
LIZ BALDWIN: They are beating people!
AARON MATÉ: What’s going on? What’s going on?
MATT BALDWIN: The police are beating the people with billy clubs now—