The Occupy Wall Street movement has all but disappeared from the pages of the New York Times. When the librarians from the occupation held a press conference on Wednesday to condemn the trashing of over 5,000 books when police evicted the occupiers, full reports appeared in McClatchy Newspapers and The Guardian, but nothing in the New York Times, despite its pretensions to journalistic responsibility.
Despite the efforts of the New York Times and the Bloomberg administration to diminish the occupiers, the treatment of the library still raises many questions. Was trashing the books part of a militaristic plan to punish and humiliate the protesters or was it just standard procedure for police involved in an eviction? The symbolism of the act could not have been misunderstood by the perpetrators, and it certainly wasn’t by the victims or Bloomberg’s staff. The NYPD is acting to negate the cultural validation of the Occupy movement’s protests and to deny a sense of permanence to the occupiers.
According to the McClatchy and Guardian reports: “In a photo posted to Twitter on Nov. 15, Bloomberg’s office showed piles of books, neatly stacked on a table and arranged in plastic bins below. … When protesters went to retrieve the books from the sanitation facility the next day, they said the only books they found in good condition were those shown in the Twitter photo.”
“At an emotional press conference on Wednesday, the librarians laid the torn and damaged books they were able to recover from the garage on a table taking up much of a cramped room in an office block in Madison Avenue. It was a sorry sight. Only 1,273 books – a third of the stock – were returned to them, they said, and around a third of those were damaged beyond repair. Only about 800 are still usable. About 2,900 books are still unaccounted for.”
The Village Voice added: “Many of [the recovered books] were on display on a conference table at the press conference, and the profusion of mildew, snapped bindings, and crumpled, filthy pages made it seem entirely plausible that the entire library had been treated like trash. … Librarians, like the other occupiers, were given only 15 minutes notice before the eviction, and so didn’t have time to remove the library. At the press conference, they told of rebuilding their library with new donations after the eviction – only to have their new collection taken by police again, the books placed in the trash and smeared with old food.”
Laurie Penny blogs at the New Statesman that after appeals went out to restock the library, the NYPD “have been hovering with menace around the fledgling collection in Zuccotti Park, where anything that looks even vaguely like an occupation is now forbidden by order of the city. They have already confiscated a second load of books, and a third is being accumulated.”
Librarians declined to put a monetary value on the missing and destroyed books. Daniel Norton, a volunteer with the Peoples Library, told the Village Voice: “I think what this represented and what we were affording people was the literacy to articulate their criticism. So to place a dollar value on the physical books themselves would completely undervalue what it was that the library was affording people.”
The lack of New York Times coverage doesn’t mean that occupiers are not still active in the Big Apple. The OWS website notes that “Occupy The Hood dropped off hundreds of meals at shelters across Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The OWS kitchen cooked enough warm meals for 4000 people and handed them out at Liberty Square and to the Occupations at New School and Rockaway.”
The police just couldn’t let this go without some drama. The Wall Street Journal reported that “protesters were digging into donated turkey and all the trimmings when police told a drummer at lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to stop playing. … About 200 of the protesters surrounded a group of about 30 officers and began shouting. ‘Why don’t you stop being cops for Thanksgiving?’ yelled one protester. ‘Why don’t you arrest the drummers in the Thanksgiving parade?’ hollered another. A van rolled up with more officers, but they hung back. The protesters … held an impromptu forum and decided to call off the drumming. The noisy standoff ended, and the protesters returned to their food.”