Here's how it went down in the wee hours this morning in lower Manhattan:
When it became clear that the police intended to clear out the park, the protesters got on their phones and called friends. But police had blocked off about 16 sq blocks or so, completely surrounding the park. People responding to the calls were stopped by barricades on Broadway. So roughly 500-600 people who couldn't make it to Zucotti Park marched straight up the middle of B’Way to Foley Sq., throwing barricades into the street as they went. Eventually that group too was surrounded by police.
The park was raided. 5,000 books, "the people's library" as it was called, were unceremoniously thrown in a dumpster, as well as most tents. 70 people arrested (including journalists). It wasn't pretty.
And as you look at the photos, remember that Bloomberg's office has repeatedly stated that the park was to be cleared out "amid growing concerns over health and public safety."
For public health and safety. Mission accomplished, NYPD. (Not!)
All was not lost though. At 6:30 a.m. this morning, Justice Lucy Billings issued an order requiring the protesters to be readmitted to Zuccotti Park with their tents. Order here.
During his 8 a.m. press conference, Mayor Bloomberg seemed to acknowledge he was familiar with the temporary restraining order, but claimed he had not been served and was keeping the park closed. As of this writing, Zuccotti Park remains closed to protesters in direct contradiction of Justice Billing’s order.
Live updates and developments here. Live Ustream (which may be nothing when you view it) is below
UPDATE: Though I support OWS, I tend to agree with Yglesius — this is a good outcome:
I think this was the best possible endgame for the group. After all, there are only a few possible ways for a protest to end. One is something like this — the cops come in and get rid of people. A second is something like the Powers That Be sit down to negotiate an end to the standoff in a way that involves giving in to some or all of the protestors demands. The third is for the protests to simply fizzle out as people lose interest. One of the distinctive things about Occupy Wall Street was that it organized itself in such a way as to make option two impossible.
So OWS was either going to end with the cops clearing the park, or else it was going to end with the protestors losing interest. It would be totally human and understandable for the protestors to end up fading away as the weather gets colder, but that would be demoralizing to everyone who’s come to look at the various Occupations as a key signal of popular discontent with rampant inequality. Instead, by ordering the protestors to be removed the Bloomberg administration has ensured continued relevance for the issue.