Last night at 1 a.m. EST the New York City Police Department forcibly removed the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Over 200 protesters were arrested as part of the raid. At the time, protesters were told they could return to the park hours later, but without their tents and other supplies. However, protesters argue that the police, ironically, are disobeying the law by refusing to acknowledge a court order allowing them to access the park with their tents. A number of journalists have also been arrested while trying to cover the police actions, raising new questions about the appropriateness of the response.
The relationship between New York City Mayor Bloomberg and the OWS movement has always been testy, and this newest conflict takes it to another level. The protesters argue they are exercising their right to peacefully assemble, and freedom of speech. Bloomberg argues the extenuated protest represents a threat to public safety.
Late last night protesters obtained a court order clearly stating that they could return to the park with their tents. Still, police refused to allow anyone to enter. Protesters then encircled the police waving the court order in their face and urging the officers to let them back in. The police simply said they were following strict orders from the mayor’s office.
Increasingly the local governments response resembles something more like a police state than a constitutional democracy. At first, local mayors simply said they were trying to enforce the law by evicting protesters. However, a legitimate order from the judiciary was completely ignored in the most recent eviction of protesters. The arrests of journalists brings about de facto censorship, removing a neutral observer from the scene to inform the public. Lower Manhattan is probably no Cairo, but without journalist on the scene it is impossible to confirm or deny anything.