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Cops break up #OccupyCityHall encampment, seven arrested after scuffles

The NYPD moved to close down #OccupyCityHall where nearly 100 homeless people with some protestors were still encamped at City Hall Park early this morning. Sanitation and cleaning crews were already on scene cleaning the plaza. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

BY TODD MAISEL AND ROBERT POZARYCKI

The month-long occupation of City Hall Park was brought to an end early Wednesday morning as NYPD officers broke the #OccupyCityHall encampment up.

Officers dressed in full riot gear arrived at the park at about 3:30 a.m. on July 22 and told the occupiers to leave peacefully, or risk arrest. According to NY1 News, scuffles reportedly broke out between officers and a few demonstrators; seven were taken into custody, with charges pending.

Later on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea confirmed seven total arrests. One was picked up for attempted assault after hurling a brick at a police officer; the brick deflected off the cop’s shield, so there were no injuries. Six others were removed from the park, but Shea expects they will be released on summonses.

The NYPD moved to close down #OccupyCityHall where nearly 100 homeless people with some protestors were still encamped at City Hall Park early this morning. Sanitation and cleaning crews were already on scene cleaning the plaza. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

There were about 70 people still living inside the park when cops moved in, WABC-TV reported. Shea indicated there were between 40-50 people on site when police arrived.

“A lot of planning went into the operation for the safety of our officers,” Shea said during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press briefing Wednesday. The mayor said the decision to raid the encampment, which had been in the works for weeks, was made about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Police officers took down the makeshift shelters that occupiers had set up. Sanitation and Parks Department crews were also brought in to help clean the public park at the corner of Centre and Chambers Street.

Shea said that the NYPD gave the occupiers an opportunity to gather their belongings and leave City Hall Park. Attorneys were on site to advise the occupiers of their rights. Aside from the seven arrested, the other occupiers left on their own accord, or accepted services provided by the city.

During the cleanup, the NYPD recovered a number of bricks and sticks, as well as assorted drug paraphernalia. 

Sanitation and cleaning crews were already on scene cleaning the plaza. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The sweep took place hours after an amNewYork Metro report documented the deteriorating conditions at City Hall Park, as well as the issues occupiers face.

The operation ended a long-term encampment that began back on June 24 as an ongoing call to demand that city lawmakers “defund” the NYPD. A week later, the City Council and mayor agreed upon a new city budget that shifted a billion dollars in funding away from the NYPD toward other services.

The NYPD moved to close down #OccupyCityHall where nearly 100 homeless people with some protestors were still encamped at City Hall Park early this morning. Sanitation and cleaning crews were already on scene cleaning the plaza. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

While that was enough for some of the occupiers to leave, others remained. The occupiers sought to turn the park into their own space, setting up their own security patrols to keep police out. 

However, the occupiers had vandalized nearby government buildings with foul graffiti and became involved in scuffles with reporters attempting to cover their occupation. Over the past few weeks, the occupation turned City Hall Park into an eyesore that sparked fear among local residents and workers.

Sanitation and cleaning crews were already on scene cleaning the plaza. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Some demonstrators were present as workers were cleaning the plaza, many had expected the clean out to happen.

A protestor who identified herself only as Suki, said her friend was having a seizure and police handcuffed him anyway.

“He was on the floor but they didn’t care,” Suki said as she waved a poster at the police occupying the plaza she was sleeping in only hours earlier. “They raided us at 4-5 in the morning, after an infiltrator, probably working with the NYPD started a fire when the cops were just standing around. We did know it was coming, and everything was destroyed all belongings – there are a lot better ways to do what they did, let me tell you.”

Shamaine Laster, representing an organization called Our Lives Matter, accused a blond woman of being a police infiltrator who he said set a fire to distract from the police assault.

The NYPD moved to close down #OccupyCityHall where nearly 100 homeless people with some protestors were still encamped at City Hall Park early this morning. Suki holds a sign and bullhorn, a last hold-out. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“There is definitely a right way they should’ve done it,” said Laster, who has been commuting to the site to help the homeless. “They should’ve called us to the round table and say we don’t want nobody hurt, but we want this ended. We could’ve tried to reason to try to keep the space, all they had to do was communicate, not coming bombarding your way in here. We had over 40 homeless people depending on us for feeding, clothing, giving them educational material – where did they all go – some are locked up, and the rest dispersed back into the city.”

Gabriel Quinoines, 22 of the Lower East Side, said he worked as a “de-escalator” assisting clinical social workers helping those with mental illness and homelessness. He said the occupation brought to the fore the problems of mental illness and homelessness.

A handful of protestors stood by as cops guarded the plaza during clean-up. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“Everyone here is traumatized to a certain extent, and everybody deserves help,” Quinoines said. “A lot of people even inside were scared of what they were witnessing, but we put a spotlight on the problem here, that there were individual examples and you couldn’t run away from it. And all of a sudden you loved it, cared for it, and wanted to help. They are an eyesore for every community where homelessness has been predominant and I just want to help –  you can’t run away from it.”

Police stand guard as cleaners remove graffiti from train elevator. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
Sanitation worker scrubs graffiti. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
Sanitation worker cleans off graffiti from ground at City Hall. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
The remains of the #occupycityhall protest in the trash. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

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