NYPD officers swooped down on Occupy Wall Street shortly after midnight to evict the protestors from their Zuccotti Park campground, kicking off a series of arrests and leaving the movement in disarray.
Police arrested just under 200 protesters (according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg), including some who chained themselves together inside the Occupiers' kitchen tent.
I arrived on the scene shortly after the first wave of arrests took place in the park. The remaining protestors swarmed the police barricades that had been set up to prevent anyone from getting within a city block of the Zuccotti Park site.
Some of the organizers announced that all Occupiers should break up into small groups to avoid the police informants they claimed were in the crowd. The group nearest to me discussed linking arms and walking directly through a police phalanx, but others backed off at the thought of intentional mass arrest.
The next two hours, Occupiers played a cat-and-mouse game with police in full riot gear, trying to make their way back into Zuccotti Park. When it became clear that the human microphone technique would not be able to outwit trained officers with surveillance helicopters on site, a stalemate ensued.
But that uneasy calm ended around 3:00 in the morning when violence broke on one of the barricaded street corners.
Some video I took from one of those corners is below (Content Warning for Language):
Before the raid started, police passed out leaflets that the park would be “cleared and restored” before the morning, according to the New York Times. Officers set up a battery of flood lights before they moved on the Occupy site and began to confiscate and discard property left behind.
A police Captain reportedly announced that “The city has determined that the continued occupation of Zuccotti Park poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard.” Protestors responded by gathering in the kitchen area of Zuccotti and chanting “No retreat, no surrender,” “This is our home” and “Barricade!”
The move may have been in response to the Occupiers' threats to shut down Wall Street and the New York City subway on Thursday to commemorate two months of successful occupation.
Looks like the Occupiers may have to put their celebration on hold.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement Tuesday that the evacuation was conducted in the middle of the night "to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood."
He said after the cleaning, protesters would be allowed to return but "must follow all park rules."
"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day," Bloomberg said. "Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else."
If the city enforces park rules against structures and overnight sleeping, it would eliminate Zuccotti Park as a home base for the Occupiers. That means the Occupiers will have to find a new home, or disperse for the winter.
But at this point, the City of New York has regained the initiative its battle with Occupy Wall Street.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report. This piece has been updated.