The city won Monday night, but awkwardly. On the ground with Occupy Wall Street on the day it regrouped via a "mass text loop."
NEW YORK CITY -- Even with a New York State Supreme Court judge's ruling late yesterday that lifted a restraining order on the clearing of Zuccotti Park, one surprising dynamic that's emerged in the wake of the mass sweep of that lower Manhattan space is that the sometimes shaggy group of protesters making up the Occupy Wall Street movement seemed to meet, if not beat, the Bloomberg administration's agility when it came to handling information.
To wit, Mayor Bloomberg and crew seemed caught flat-footed by an entirely predictable temporary restraining order issued by Judge Lucy Billings at 6:30 a.m. yesterday morning that blocked both the clearing of the park and letting the protesters back in with the tents and other supplies prohibited by the "'rules' published after the occupation began," i.e. the First-Amendment-questionable rules for behavior on Zuccotti Park that were instituted by park owner Brookfield Properties with the obvious intention of getting the people who have spent the last two months camping in the space to finally pack up and go home.
Occupy Wall Street protesters, on the other hand, looked hugely limber throughout the day. Remember that video that went viral last week showing the synchronization of a starling flock? It was like that. At rush hour yesterday morning, Zuccotti Park was a ghost town, with identifiable protesters far outnumbered by residents, press, and amateur gawkers who were spending the morning looking upon an newly-cleared park. It was almost eerily quiet. Where had all the people gone? Sure, some had been arrested. But Occupy Wall Street, as a group, has always been fluid in size and composition. Surely there were Occupy Wall Street participants and supporters lurking somewhere in New York City. Indeed, street chatter and tweets talked of people re-amassing in Foley Square and Duarte Park, two other open spaces elsewhere in the city. Then, shortly after ten, they returned. Streaming down Trinity Place, hundreds of protesters chanted "Almost home! Almost home!" They clutched paper copies of Judge Billings' hours-old order in their hands. Stacks of copies of the order were passed out amongst the crowd. Some protesters waved them in the faces of the police. Others tried to walk individual police offices through the nuances of the decree. The chant went up: "You! Are! Breaking the law!" In the swirl of the crowd, I asked one protester how'd she'd known where to go yesterday morning, and when to come back. Via a "mass text loop," she explained -- that is, a bulk text messaging list shared by the protesters.