Jan 20, 2012 Walt Shepperd Uncategorized
Word of the 8 a.m. eviction notice needs a second glance, 9:30 in the television room of the Syracuse Athletic Club, downtown YMCA — off red, subtle, at the top of the cover. Inside, sharp black bold, Page 3. Too late to negotiate, the mayor tells the Civil Liberties Union folks. The country’s, perhaps the world’s, model Occupation would be challenged to vacate by police, probably in the midst of high winds and heavy snow. An estimated 120 people gather at the Occupation the night before for a General Assembly on options. A significant number volunteer that they would submit to arrest, and a suggestion that local policy allows for a visit to arrestees before incarceration, fosters a number equal to those volunteering arrest committing to be visitors, with an accompanying call to “Occupy the Jail.”
The hovering action seems sudden. The police have complimented the occupiers on their comportment. The mayor has visited the site several times to talk with occupiers. As long as they keep the agreed upon deal, it’s cool with her. But the action is now necessitated by reports of continued violations of the deal, of occupiers possessing items which could cause fires.
Approaching Perseverance Park from the east at noon, the bus line-up blocks the view of tents targeted for termination. The crossing clock at Fayette and Salina counting down from 12, as if offering time to think before taking the last shot. The tents are still there. Less in number than in warmer times, but the largest impressive with a wood framed door and shiny new knob. Eight a.m., according to Civil Liberties Dennis, there were no evictors, no snow, no winds, but by his estimate 100 people, ready for whatever. “Like in other cities,” he reflects, NYCLU credentials on display on his chest, “they’ll come late at night when very few are here.”
At 5 p.m. the wind is chill, the occupiers staunch. The tents are still up, but a volunteer for arrest is reflecting that they will come between the last bus at midnight and the resumption of public transit at 5 a.m. He anticipates an appearance ticket, with no occupation of the Justice Center. They come at 3:30, video documented by local channels which have maintained an on-site presence since the eviction notice was announced.
At Fayette and Salina the following noon, the clock again counting down from 12, the final shot has already been taken. The actual Perseverance Park (the tents had mostly been pitched on city property wedged between the park proper and the Centro bus shelters) is outlined with yellow police caution tape as a crime scene. In place of the sparse three month old tent village a small pile of cardboard signs topped by someone’s new looking carry bag herald a tiny unlit funeral pyre. When they came, one of the eight arrestees says, they said, “you’ve got two minutes to get out,” apparently for not having a permit.
The next noon the pile is gone, replaced by plastic chests of food, one of the few items permitted. The occupiers cannot have chairs, cannot sit, cannot occupy from dusk ‘til dawn when the park is closed. The arrestee holds a sign and talks about the challenges of practicing free speech. They have a court date Feb. 23, he says, without mention of anticipated occupation of the courtroom. Until then, “We’ll talk about today’s problems today,” he says. “Tomorrow, we’ll talk about tomorrow’s problems.”