When I got the first tweet telling me the barricades were being removed from Liberty Square, I was overwhelmed with happiness, and I can understand that a lot of people may not understand why it was a big deal. After all, it’s just a park, right? And I was certainly one of the voices post-eviction to tell people that the park wasn’t that important. The movement was bigger than any park–and still is. But seeing those barricades gone, being able to access Liberty Square from any point, and seeing the People’s Library back in the park was a profound moment, a small victory in a very long struggle.
For those who don’t know, the legal battles to get those barricades removed go back to the eviction when they were first put in place. It wasn’t an overnight thing. Our allies in the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild along with the Legal Working Group of Occupy Wall Street put in a lot of work to make this happen.
Some media outlets called it a “Return to Zuccotti Park” but there was no returning; we’d never left. We’ve routinely held our General Assemblies and other meetings there since the eviction with few exceptions. But it was something of a prison, with only two entry points guarded by the goons of Brookfield. People with bags were routinely excluded from the space. The park felt smaller.
With the barricades gone, food from the People’s Kitchen streamed in. We ate together. We laughed at how good the food tasted. My friend and fellow Occupier, Teddy Mapes, said, “It’s the best meal I’ve ever had.” Everybody was smiling and laughing. You couldn’t walk a few feet without getting another hug from a happy Occupier.
And then the People’s Library returned! That glorious manifestation of all that is good and wonderful about Occupy Wall Street, an effort to share whatever resources we have with each other. It was much smaller than its earlier manifestation but just seeing the books enter the park brought a tear to my eye. To this day nobody is quite sure who or how the library started, but in the days since it has taken on a life of its own with dedicated volunteers who manage to get a mobile version of the library anywhere we have an action.
So it really was no surprise when the NYPD started lining up to destroy the People’s Library. In the video I posted you can actually hear the police officer warn that the books will be destroyed. It scares the 1% to see us present a different model of human behavior that isn’t based on selfishness and profit. It frightens them to see us freely sharing knowledge. No tyrant wants an educated populace, certainly not King Bloomberg.
It is just a park. But sans the barricades it becomes so much more. It’s a space where we feed each other. It’s a space where we share information and resources. It’s a space where we figure out how to work with each other in a deeply democratic way where all voices are heard. It becomes a magical space of humanity in this land of despotism. Liberty Square is much more than a park.