Occupy Wall Street scored a victory on Tuesday night when police removed metal barricades that for nearly two months had blocked protesters from entering Zuccotti Park, previously home base of the Occupy movement.
A day earlier, the New York Civil Liberties Union appealed to the New York City Department of Buildings to have the barricades removed, calling the obstructions a violation of city zoning laws because they restricted public access to the park.
Prior to the removal of the barricades, the park was accessible only through two checkpoints under watch by officers or security. But on Tuesday, according to police spokesman Paul Brown, police tore down those walls because officials felt they were no longer necessary.
“We’re pleased the city is finally giving the park back to the people,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. “We hope Zuccotti Park can now resume its rightful place as a center for meeting and protest in New York City.”
There’s bound to be tension between police and protesters, though, as Occupy faithful flood back into the space for the first time since the NYPD raided the camp on November 15 last year. An employee of the park owner told the AP, “The barriers are down, but the other rules are the same.”
An Occupy meeting took place not long after the park was opened. The Occupy Wall Street Twitter account invited musicians to come down to the park at midnight. Earlier, one protester attempted to set up a tent — which is forbidden, as is lying down on benches — but the tent was taken down by guards.
“I was still putting in the poles when they showed up,” the man said. “Our food is in, our library is up. I think it’s going to be a big celebration for us in the park right now.”
As the night went on, demonstrators said a few people were arrested. But before the rules were enforced, protesters photographed themselves lying down together in the park, perhaps for a photo op, but also maybe as a sign that they’re willing to test the limits of their rejuvenated occupation. After all, these are protesters.
This post has been updated throughout.