Two months after the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters were evicted from New York City’s Zuccotti Park, police on Tuesday removed the metal barricades surrounding the park and allowed the public back in.
The barricades were removed only a day after the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild threatened legal action against the city for restricting the public’s access to the park.
“We’re pleased the city is finally giving the park back to the people,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We hope Zuccotti Park can now resume its rightful place as a center for meeting and protest in New York City.”
About 300 protesters streamed into the park hours after police removed the barriers, according to the Associated Press.
“Word spread pretty quickly, and we ran down here,” demonstrator Lauren DiGioia said. “It’s hard to remember what it was like before the barricades were put up.”
Zuccotti Park regulations prohibit anyone from erecting tents or tarps, and those rules are expected to be strictly enforced.
Sleeping bags and numerous other items are also banned, rules that could produce tension between the protesters and security. In its heyday, the protest site was practically a miniature town with its own kitchen, comfort station, sanitation department and library.
One protester tried to set up a tent, but it was quickly taken down by security guards.
“I was still putting in the poles when they showed up,” the protester told the Associated Press. “Our food is in, our library is up. I think it’s going to be a big celebration for us in the park right now.”
Beginning September 17, the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters pledged to remain Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan until something was done about the consolidation of economic and political power. The protest inspired others across the nation to begin their own “Occupy” demonstrations.
Hundreds of police officers in riot gear evicted the protesters from the park in a surprise pre-dawn raid on November 15. The city said the encampment posed a health and fire safety hazard.
After clearing out the park, the metal barriers were erected. Until tonight, the public could only enter the park through two gaps where security personnel selectively subjected people to searches.
Photo credit: David Shankbone