Protesters who had their belongings taken away during the Zuccotti raid have been told by the city to pick up their items at the Sanitation Building at 650 W 57th Street. In a tweet from the Mayor’s office, occupiers were informed that they could pick up their safely-stowed belongings. This was not the case. Most protesters found their items in disrepair or completely broken. Tents were ripped, locks were broken, and cash boxes were missing. Reports of what’s been going on at the sanitation site prompted us to go check it out for ourselves.
When we first arrived at the Sanitation building at 11:15 a.m. last Wednesday, there were few protesters there to retrieve their items. The media was not allowed inside the building. Protesters who arrived to pick up their items had to fill out a form specifically stating exactly which items they were missing. Once inside, if they could not state every single item that was inside a bag or suitcase, they could not take it. Those without ID weren’t allowed in, except for a few plucky people that were able to convince the cops their IDs were inside.
We spoke with Julie Wood, a representative from the Mayor’s office. With regard to the protester’s belongings, Wood said that “A lot of the stuff is in good shape.” We asked her about the reports that many books from the People’s Library were damaged or destroyed, as well as other equipment and personal items. She said, “It’s important to remember that this was all stuff that was abandoned at the park.” Wood told us 1,000 books were in the Sanitation building. There were between four and five thousand books in the People’s Library before the raid.
We spoke with Mandy Heck, a librarian at Depauw University who served as a liaison between the press and those looking to recover the People’s Library. “Our periodicals, zines and laptops have all been destroyed,” she said. “And original signage, works of art, have not been recovered.” We heard reports of destroyed Bibles and Torahs, which are confirmed in a Washington Post article.
At 11:35 a.m., 22-year-old Columbia student Jackson Leverette arrived with his friend Andre Lakes and his dog, Mister, a cocker spaniel/King Charles cavalier mix. Both Leverette and Lakes manned the comfort station at Zuccotti. Leverette said that Mister had been pepper sprayed at 5:40 a.m. on Broadway and Pine on Tuesday morning. Mister was not allowed inside the sanitation building, so we spent the next few hours watching him.
Leverette also said he had pit bull puppies at Zuccotti. He claims that they were stomped to death by police during the raid. According to Leverette, the puppies were in a tent when the police came through the park. The police proceeded to rip the tent apart, and the young dogs were not able to survive, Leverette said.
Leverette did not recover any of his personal items. “I found nothing,” he said.”There’s a reason why they don’t want nobody up there taking pictures or anything, because they’re breaking everything.” Lakes found his suitcase, which had been smashed, and was not allowed to take it with him, as he couldn’t name every single item inside.
Sade Adona, a protester who had been living in Zuccotti for the past two months, lost all of her personal belongings. She informed us that the cops were giving people contradictory statements; one told her that they hadn’t finished going through all of the items, and another that they weren’t looking through the protesters’ belongings. Sade also said that there is a section of the Sanitation building blocked off with tarp, where NYPD members are going through occupiers’ stuff with rakes.
“I don’t believe that the cops up there really want to be doing this,” she said. “I know this has to be a bigger junction of authority delineating these rules.”
The OWS Medical team suffered losses as well. Miriam Rocek, a 25 year-old street medic who had been with the Occupation since the second day, came to look for equipment including bandages, gauze, over the counter drugs, beds, inhalers, AEDs, EPI pens, and herbal medicines. Nothing could be recovered.
“I found a lot of the medics bags, but there was nothing in them,” said Lily Johnson, another medical volunteer, who moved to New York for the occupation. Lily lost all of her own belongings as well. “Everything up there is destroyed,” she said. “Every bag is open, everything’s dumped out. All the metal on suitcases is broken. All the locked cash boxes are open and there’s nothing in them.”
On Friday we returned to the sanitation site. Members of the medical team including Andrea Mueller, 34, a street medic, and Pauly Kostora, another volunteer, came to demand that the police return their medical equipment. “The main priority is patient files,” said Mueller. “We have to protect their privacy.”
We spoke with Kostora post-search and he updated us on the status of the medical equipment. The medical team recovered none of their equipment, and only a scant few personal items, included Pauly’s passport. “Just about all the stuff we found was completely destroyed,” he said. “One of my medics had these really nice expensive rain pants, and they had holes in them from being burned.” The patient files have yet to be recovered, as well as a cash boxes containing a total of around 900 dollars.
“The lawyer and public relations guy said that a lot of the stuff didn’t make it to the sanitation site,” (ed: we asked Pauly for the names of the officials he spoke with and he couldn’t be positive of who they were exactly) he said. “I’m starting to think the NYPD has it. A lot of it smells fishy.”
Nicky Terranova, the Community Affairs Officer for the Sanitation Department, informed us that the Sanitation building on 57th will remain open today and Tuesday for those that, like the medical team, wish to continue searching for their belongings.