Moral Low Ground


NYPD Destroy ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Library of 5,000 Books as they Violently Clear Zuccotti Park

When the powers-that-be start destroying books, you know you’re on the road to a police state…

Destroyed. (Photo: David Shankbone)

One of the casualties of this morning’s violent NYPD raid on the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ encampment in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square was the beautiful 5,554- book library that the protesters had set up in a laudable effort to inform, educate and entertain campers. The People’s Library was stocked with copies of some of the most important– and pertinent– titles ever published including, interestingly, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel about a totalitarian America where reading is outlawed and books are burned.

The symbolism of New York police ransacking the People’s Library and tossing thousands upon thousands of books into a trash dumpster weighed heavy upon those who witnessed or heard about the act, one which is almost always associated with authoritarian regimes. Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon wondered: Will they burn them? Marcotte, who helped fill the library’s shelves, wrote:

Protesters locked arms and tried to keep the dumpsters full of books and tents from leaving, but obviously to no avail. Personally, I donated about a dozen books to OWS, mostly about feminism in response to requests for more feminist discourse and history. Some of them weren’t exactly books you can just saunter into a local library branch or Barnes & Noble to find, either, such as the radical feminism reader. So this image of the books being tossed into the trash is just adding to the emotional distress of this situation.

So don’t believe the lies. If this was just about a clean park, there would have been no need to go over the fucking top in the asssaults on speech and press that included threatening journalists (and arresting one), squelching witnesses, and destroying over 5,000 books that were provided, free of charge, by supporters who want to assist protesters’ desire to educate themselves and, frankly, give them something to do during their downtime.

Of course, ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is first and foremost about people, and the people who refused to leave Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square when the riot police stormed the camp early this morning endured violence of the type associated with regimes that destroy books. Unarmed, peaceful protesters– including a New York City Councilman— were attacked with chemical weapons and batons and nearly 200 were arrested for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. And speaking of First Amendment rights, journalists were barred from covering the violent eviction, with NYPD officers attacking some of them and telling others “You’re not press tonight.”

But amidst all the chaos and brutality of this morning’s raid, the symbolic imagery of the People’s Library being destroyed will be burned in the minds of many for a very long time. To paraphrase Heinrich Heine, wherever they destroy books they will also, in the end, destroy human beings.

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