Brief account of OWS and the People's Library after the 11*15 Raid

The first thing I thought when I heard about Tuesday's early morning raid on Zuccotti Park was "Oh my god, the library." Over the past two months, I've visited Occupy movements in Portland, Seattle and NYC, been to marches, protests and teach-ins, held conversations with strangers and attended General Assemblies, but of all those things, volunteering at the library has meant the most to me. In this post, I want to share my experiences yesterday trying to figure out what happened after the raid, particularly in terms of the library.
Yesterday morning, I heard through text messages from friends that something had happened, but it was hard to know what the situation was. I headed to Manhattan early Tuesday afternoon. I'd heard that people were gather at Canal and 6th Ave., but when I got there, I only saw news vans. Later, I heard that everyone who attended the press conference that had been scheduled there was arrested. On my way to Zuccotti, I saw a couple familiar faces headed to Foley Square, so I joined them and tried to get a sense of what was happening. At Foley, I ran into one of the OWS librarians I'd met previously, and over the next four or five hours, we waited to hear the injunction decision, talking all the while about what had happened to the library. I'd read Stephen's account of the raid, but no one knew the fate of the books, laptops, bins, tarps and supplies that had been removed. It was difficult not to be very disheartened about Bloomberg and his administration, the protest, the library and the state of activism in NYC.
One of the most frustrating parts of yesterday was the utter lack of reliable information. At one point, we'd heard over the People's Mic at Foley Square that the injunction had been rejected and that tents would be allowed back in the park. After jubilantly marching from Foley to Zuccotti, we began to realize that this wasn't verified and later proved to be untrue. Although the park was reopened around 5pm, no tents or sleeping bags were allowed in. In fact, "reopened" is probably too kind a word - the perimeter of the park was sealed with barricades manned by police officers, and people were only allowed to enter through an opening in the middle of the south side, where they were screened for weapons, bull horns and (by some accounts) food, as well as tents or sleeping bags.
I re-entered the park and made my way to the library, and saw that it had been re-opened. It's hard to describe accurately how happy, revitalized and proud I was to see the library re-open. Within hours, over one hundred donations had come in, been tagged "OWSL" and had their ISBNs noted. I left around 10:30pm, although it was unclear whether the books would be allowed to stay overnight.
This morning, I met with OWS librarians at the Department of Sanitation to help with reclaiming property. I arrived at 8am (to my surprise, there were very few people in line waiting with us), filled out a form with two other librarians and after a 45 minute wait (and having my bags screened for weapons and cameras) was allowed upstairs. The removed materials were sorted into piles in a parking lot inside the building. The library's things were mostly labeled and easy to identify, and what appeared to be a significant chunk of the collection (maybe a little over half?) was there. That's the good news. The bad news is, a lot of the books are missing, many are damaged. Beyond the books, the laptops are either missing or damaged, and basic things like tents and shelves are gone.
We began creating a pile of library belongings. The experience of being in a parking lot surrounded by police as we moved items from one side of the parking lot to the other, things that had been gathered through donations from all over the country and brought together in a publicly-available space of constitutionally-protected free speech and protest, and removed to a department that processes trash, was nothing short of Kafka-esque. Librarians had come with pictures showing library property and a print out of the catalog. I left at 9:30am, as we were being told that we would have to check off books in the Department of Sanitation pile from our catalog list before we would be allowed to take back books.
I have two requests for help from librarian activists and allies. First, given the incredibly frustrating misinformation yesterday, I think Radical Reference should offer information assistance to protesters on the ground at events like yesterday. I know we've done this in the past, and it would have been so useful yesterday to have been in touch with people who could verify information. Second, I'd ask people to come out for tomorrow's Day of Action. I'm planning on being at the 7am, 3pm (in Union Square) and 5pm events. Come show your support for the people who are still in jail, the books we lost, the books we got back and the solidarity that we're trying to build.


In Pittsburgh but very much with you all.

Info Aid

I agree that we could try to help out with informational needs more--are you thinking along the lines of street reference? Perhaps an email to the NYC-RR lists would help gather volunteers?

Update on NYC People's Library?

Would love an update if possible.

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