Occupy Wall Street: Protesters Emboldened After Downtown Eviction

Though protesters aren't sure of their next move, their morale remains high.

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Monday night’s police eviction of Zuccotti Park involved scare tactics, but it didn’t create fear.

“I wasn’t scared, more like frantic,” said protester Stephanie Diaz, who was heading into her tent to go to sleep when the police showed up. “I grabbed my guitar and my laptop, they destroyed all of my stuff. They took our tents and put them in dumpsters and garbage trucks.”

Diaz recalled her early morning escape while sitting on a curb at the intersection of Canal Street and Sixth Avenue. She sat with all of her earthly possessions at her feet, but behind her was the real action. Dozens of protesters sat atop the solid wooden fence that encircled the street corner.

Just hours before, police had forcefully removed the people that had sneaked inside the fencing. Now, most people stood grouped along the sidewalk at one of several makeshift protest areas that popped up following the late-night expulsion.

(PHOTOS: Police Clear Occupy Wall Street Park)

Diaz said the eviction surprised no one, as it came amid constant rumors that something similar would happen. What did create shock was how police went about it. “People were getting beaten up and police were laughing at them, spraying tear gas, hitting people with batons,” she said. Miriam Rocek, a self-styled medic for the protests, said police showed no mercy and even hit a woman in a wheelchair.

Tuesday’s mood, Rocek said, was similar to that of the day after her first of two arrests, which was among the first round of mass arrests back in early October. “We came back the next day and there was a sign in the park that said, ‘Oh, It’s On.’ And that was kind of how we all felt,” she said. “It’s been on for awhile.”

As Rocek described the renewed energy of the movement, the crowd suddenly—as if commanded by a higher power—coalesced into one mass and began marching back toward Zuccotti Park, with signs and rally cries of “We are the 99%” aplenty.

Kanene Holder, a press representative for Occupy Wall Street, later said the exodus was planned in response to the morning court order, although it also worked as a signal of solidarity.

Tuesday morning’s ruling, handed down from the New York Supreme Court, enacted a restraining order that prohibited any city official from evicting lawful protesters or enforcing any laws that were enacted after the occupation began. The initial energy that this ruling spurred was dampened somewhat by an afternoon order that prohibited the erection of structures (including tents), the use of gas or other combustible materials and the accumulation of garbage and human waste. These amendments seemingly preclude protesters from continuous occupation, but the bag searches that accompanied the protesters’ reentry to the park around 5:30 p.m. did not lower morale.

“It’s palpable now,” said Holder. “I see smiles, people looking toward the horizon. This is the new face of the movement.”

(MORE: Occupy Wall Street’s Law-and-Order Problem)

Not everyone was critical of the eviction. Frustrated downtown residents from buildings neighboring Zuccotti Park have formed a new group, called the Downtown Community Coalition, to advocate for the rights of families, residents and local businesses affected by the noise, health and safety issues caused by the nine-week old occupation.

Still, the afternoon march—and the Zuccotti removal—galvanized Occupy Wall Street in advance of its two-month anniversary this Thursday. On that day, the movement will celebrate with three marches and other activities designed to show the ills of the 1%, Holder said.

Even amid the police standoff after the march back to Zuccotti Park, protesters were anything but discouraged. “I think it’s [the eviction] just going to add energy to it,” said Rocek. “Everything you’ve seen, you will see more of.”

Holder added that Thursday’s “Day Of Action” will go on as planned, but with more passion. “This only emboldened us, it entrenched our purpose,” she said, before adding, “You can evict the park, but you can’t expunge an ideology.”

Logistics and other practical steps will be addressed at tonight’s General Assembly.

MORE: On the Scene: The Night Police Cleared Zuccotti Park