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Duly Noted

Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011, 8:44 am

Occupy Wall Street Library In the Slammer, Roughed Up

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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The People's Library in Zuccotti Park in its former glory, before the NYPD and sanitation workers set upon it early Tuesday morning.   David Shankbone, Creative Commons.

The People's Library was one of the crown jewels of occupied Wall Street. The Zuccotti Park branch housed over 5500 donated books and other cultural materials. The library was destroyed early Tuesday morning during a police raid on the park. Librarians saw police and sanitation workers tossing books into dumpsters.

Amid public outcry, the city claimed that the collection was safely impounded at the 57th St. Sanitation Garage and would be available for pickup on Wednesday.

OWS librarians attempted to reclaim their collection and found it decimated, according to the Maddow Blog. They only found 25 boxes of books in storage, a fraction of the original collection, and many of the recovered volumes were damaged or destroyed. Laptop computers were recovered, damaged beyond repair.

"Most equipment -and structures missing. . . most of library is missing (ALL of the reference section btw), damaged or destroyed," the Occupy Wall Street Library blog reported this morning.

Based on the state of the collection, and eye-witness accounts of cops and sanitation workers destroying materials before casting them into dumpsters, I suspect that the city is frantically sifting through trash to recover books that would have been discarded had it not been for the public outcry. Unfortunately, the people who gave the orders to sack the library probably aren't the ones elbow-deep in garbage today.

This is a PR disaster for New York City. Between the obliteration of the People's Library and the heavy-handed media blackout during the raid, and the assault on City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, you'd think Bloomberg was trying to usher in a new Dark Ages in Lower Manhattan.

Last night, Amanda Marcotte, Darcy Argue, and I went down to Zuccotti Park to donate books to help reestablish the library.

Update: Reporter Melissa Gira Grant is surveying the devastation at the sanitation garage. Follow her tweets @melissagira

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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