NYPD raid destroyed thousands of books, Occupy says
By GIANNA PALMER
NEW YORK What
started in September as a few piles of books on a tarp in Manhattan's Zuccotti
Park, the de facto headquarters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, had grown
into a full-fledged outdoor library with 5,000 volumes and an online catalog by
On Wednesday, a group of library
workers and supporters of The People's Library, as it's known among Occupy
protesters, gathered in midtown Manhattan to discuss what had become of the
library during the Nov. 15 eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park ordered by
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The event was held around a
conference table covered in library books from the park in varying states of
damage - torn, wrinkled, coverless and even mangled. Among the books visible on
the table were a leather-bound copy of the Bible, a collection of Chinese
mythology and a volume of selected poems by Allen Ginsberg. The speakers
present shared their collective disgust with the raid that had destroyed the
donation-supported library in Zuccotti Park.
"Today we are here questioning
the appropriateness and the legality of the confiscation of approximately 4,000
books," said former New York Civil Liberties Union director Norman Siegel,
who hosted and moderated the event. Siegel said that 1,275 books of the 4,000
books seized had been recovered; of those, one-third were damaged to the point
of being unusable. He estimated that 2,725 books had been destroyed.
The self-appointed Occupy librarians
said many of the books were not easily replaced, including signed copies,
handmade publications and a special edition.
"Our nation's poet laureate,
Philip Levine, came in the morning before the raid and donated and signed a
copy of his book, 'What Work Is,'" said Stephen Boyer, 27, an Occupy
librarian who had been living and working in the library until Nov. 15. Boyer
held up the book, displaying its damage. "The NYPD and Bloomberg trashed
it," he said.
Bloomberg's office did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boyer said he had been at the library
on Nov. 15 when the New York Police Department ordered occupiers out about 1
a.m. Besides his personal belongings and an armful of poetry anthologies, Boyer
said he was unable to rescue much else from the library.
"I just got what I could in one
load, and that was all I could save," Boyer said, adding that once he had
left, the police wouldn't let him back into the park to take more books.
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. The accompanying message said property from the
park, including the Occupy Wall Street library, was being "safely
stored" in a sanitation facility and would be available for pickup the
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. The other books
retrieved from a back room by sanitation workers were in much worse shape, said
Michele Hardesty, 33, one of the protesters who had gone to retrieve the books.
"It was clear from what we saw
at sanitation that our books were treated like trash," Hardesty said.
Speakers at the event called on
Bloomberg to acknowledge that a wrong had been committed and to guarantee that
similar actions would never occur again.
They also asked that Bloomberg
replace the books and provide a space for the People's Library to be recreated.
Mandy Henk, 32, a librarian at
DePaul University, said she saw the library's destruction as an attempt to
silence and destroy the Occupy movement.
"What kind of a people are we
if we can't create a public space in which people can come and share books with
each other? In which people can come and share ideas with each other?" she
said. "Who are we as a country if we don't have room for that?"