Thu, Nov 17, 2011
By Neha Banka
Zuccotti Park was less crowded on Wednesday, but Occupy Wall Street members insisted that the movement is not losing steam as they prepared several dramatic gestures for Thursday in protest of Tuesday’s early morning police eviction and a court order banning tents and sleeping bags in the park.
Only a few dozen protestors were milling in the park on Wednesday morning, as organizers planned for today’s “Day of Action.” Hundreds of people stormed the streets of the financial district this morning, blocking off intersections and clashing with police.
Those who did sleep overnight in the park Tuesday found inventive ways to get around the court order. Park benches were lined with shiny, foil-like sheets called “space blankets” that are used by marathon runners and surgeons to retain body heat. Some stubborn protestors slept in these sheets in place of their banned bags and tents.
Leina Bocar smuggled a sleeping bag into the park last night and said she used both it and one of the sheets, which were distributed by “medic” volunteers. Like other protestors, Bocar is convinced that the crowds will come eventually.
“Most people are at work, “ she said. “Some are at general assembly meetings. Some are at homeless shelters. But that doesn’t mean the movement’s going to die. Because tents weren’t allowed, many people didn’t sleep here at night. But I know more and more people are going to come here.”
Another protester, Stephen Bollela, said he was still aching from Tuesday’s eviction. He said he was in his tent when police moved in at 1 a.m.
“They started kicking at me through the tent,” he said. “I didn’t know what was happening. They tried to take my bag and arrested me. There are witnesses in the park who will testify to that.”
There was no way yesterday to confirm Bollela’s account with police, but he showed a swollen right eye, bruises on his face and cuts and bruises on his wrist.
He said he persuaded the police to stop kicking by telling them his left arm was already hurt by an earlier accident. “They kicked me and said, ‘You shouldn’t be here then,’” he claimed.
He said that he went to a hospital for treatment.
“Seeing we can’t sleep here, all these people from out of town were given space to sleep in other people’s homes who lived nearby,” he said. “I let a couple of them sleep in my apartment on Fulton.”
The protesters are helping each other stay warm and dry in other ways as well.
Bill, who declined to give his last name, is a volunteer for the group’s “Shipping Inventory and Storage” unit, which yesterday morning distributed white socks among protestors.
“We’re living out in the streets,” he explained. “If your socks get wet, you’ll get trench foot.”
His supply unit was trying to figure out who was OWS and who was just living there. He himself has been camping out here for 34 days, he said.
“Tomorrow we are going to make people realize we’re here to stay,” he said.
Being evicted from Zuccotti Park isn’t a problem he thinks. “We have other locations: buildings, parks, office space. Our homes were taken by the police and we’re going to change that,” he proclaimed.
He continued: “The senate’s in stagnation. President Obama has made every thing that George. W. Bush did that was considered a war-crime normalized. Bush was stupid, Obama is evil. I think what we’re doing here is more beneficial than what any other party can do. I hope a new party is created here. It’s going to take a lot to silence us.”
It is impossible to say how representative Bill is of the overall OWS movement, but the gesture for the sleeping man does reflect widespread mutual support among the protestors.
A man is holding his one-year-old daughter and it starts to rain. “Do you need an umbrella for the baby?” a woman comes up to him and asks. “This is not the way people are on Wall Street and the rest of world.”