The barricades that have enclosed Zuccotti for nearly two months since Occupy Wall Street was evicted came down last night after several advocacy groups sent a letter to the city’s Department of Buildings challenging the park restrictions. Today, two vocal occupiers in the City Council stopped by the park to celebrate its new freedom and call on the mayor to address Occupy Wall Street in his State of the City speech tomorrow.
And it feels so different! (One occupier said that he’d grown so used to the barricades that he still walks to the center of Liberty Street — the only entrance when the barricades were up — to get into the park, even though the whole park is open now. Runnin’ Scared did the same thing).
“I just want to say: We are so proud,” said a smiling Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who was arrested last year at the protests. “You can evict a group of people from an area, but you cannot evict an idea.”
“Tomorrow, Mayor Bloomberg will present his State of the City event. He should know that the Occupy Movement is staying in Zuccotti Park. The Occupy Movement is staying in the city, and the Occupy movement will not leave our society until we close the gap between the 1% and the 99%,” he said to a few reporters on site.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has been a loud opponent of Bloomberg’s raid on Zuccotti, started with a jab at the mayor: “I’m happy to be here to see that the mayor has finally begun to follow the law. So we’re happy about that. Unfortunately he usually needs a tremendous amount of pressure to do that and only because he got that tremendous amount of pressure do we see that the barricades have come down.”
The city’s eviction did not work, he added: “Occupy Wall Street has grown stronger and more organized.”
After the short conference, Williams told Runnin’ Scared that he hopes the mayor addresses Occupy Wall Street tomorrow in his speech: “He should mention something about Occupy Wall Street, because it’s definitely turned the discussion here, and many people think that what happened during the eviction was…an example of the police force being misused.”
But, he added, “There’s nothing that makes me think he’ll bring it up.”
In the newly liberated Zuccotti Park this afternoon, not all protesters were cheering. When Runnin’ Scared asked Occupier Jaime Vazquez, a 62-year-old disabled Vietnam Veteran from Jersey City, what he thought about the removal of the barricades, he pointed to the pile of barricades sitting in a corner of the park: “They need to take the barricades away. This is a public park.”