Recovery for Occupy Wall Street’s library

In the weeks that Occupy Wall Street created a protest village in lower Manhattan, activists put together a lending library of more than 5,000 volumes.  When the police cleared the demonstrators out of Zuccotti Park, contractors hauled all of the stuff that remained away, including the library.

The books weren’t burned, but the the haulers treated the volumes like trash.  Of course, there were also computers and cameras, tents and blankets, and bicycle generators, but the pictures of the library in pieces in a dumpster provided some of the more disturbing images from the eviction.

Occupy’s librarians sued the City of New York for damages, and yesterday the City settled, making a payment of $375,000.  (Read the settlement agreement here.)

Not quite an apology, the City issued a statement:

Defendants acknowledge and believe it is unfortunate that, during the course of clearing Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011, books were damaged so as to render them unusable, and additional books are unaccounted for. Defendants further acknowledge and believe it unfortunate that certain library furnishings and equipment likewise were damaged so as to render them unusable, and other library furnishings and equipment may be unaccounted for. Plaintiffs and Defendants recognize that when a person’s property is removed from the city it is important that the City exercise due care and adhere to established procedures in order to protect legal rights of the property owners.

The City will make payments to several groups of Occupiers for damage to their property, but just about half of the total will go to the lawyers who filed the case.

There’s got to be some point there.

For New York City, $375,00 is a relatively small price to pay for ending the litigation.

For the rest of us, this is a good chance to consider the paradox of political openness in America.  Demonstrators camped out in a tiny private park in the middle of the City, and then were summarily evicted, their property destroyed within minutes.  Yet the evicted were able to hold the City responsible for the property destruction, once they were able to enlist lawyers on their behalf.  More than a year after the eviction, Occupy Wall Street is once again in the news.

I haven’t been able to find a source on how the non-lawyers will use their settlement money.  Presumably, they’ll put it back into the cause in some way.  Although even half of $375,000 seems like a lot of money to most of us, we need to remember that this is in the context of a politics where a billionaire casino magnate can contribute $100,000,000 to candidates for office.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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1 Response to Recovery for Occupy Wall Street’s library

  1. The Occupy raids back in 2011 were exemplary of the gross misconduct by the NYPD which is being exposed day by day. It fits the very definition of what it is to be “American” to stand up for what you believe in. These kids took to the streets to stand up to a Corporate America which has pillaged out Middle Class while not paying their own way through Corporate Welfare and Tax Exemptions. In return, they were beaten, pepper sprayed and had their belongings destroyed by the guys who are paid to protect them. Our Law Enforcement have been turned into another arm of Wall Street which you can read more about at with some artwork which says “F*ck the Police!”

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