What a day….
It was about 2pm yesterday when I was watching a pirated copy of J.A.G (Season 2!), that the Occupy Wall Street Library Twitter feed was going nuts. Zuccotti Square was under attack.
I have been following their blog for sometime, and knew from past meeting minutes that they had an Emergency Contingency Plan (first save the movement’s archives and self-publications, then the electronics, then start on the crates of books), but that didn’t soften the blow as I watched in horror as one of the OWS librarians tweet pictures of the 5,554 books and other materials being destroyed and tossed into dump trucks.
For the next two hours, my housemate and I sat, glued to the computer, and watched the various livestream’s of New York’s police destroying the camp. There was even a video from the camp’s kitchen, (where the protesters had linked arms to occupy the space, to stop the police removing the structure), and nobody is sure if it was tear gas people were choking on, or a fire extinguisher, for an alleged fire.
One of the OWS librarians can confirm the usage of tear gas at some point, as he provided medical assistance to a protester, before returning to the crowds to read poetry from the OWS Poetry Zine (which he save from the library by strapping it to his body).
To me, if I were living in New York these last two months, I would have joined the protest, just to work in their library. Sure, I am a poor student who doesn’t get enough Centrelink to pay the rent, but I am not generally the type to get aggressive. I am pretty non-confrontational for someone who is also very in-your-face and open about who I am (after all, you don’t meet a gay, Christian, disabled librarian every day!). But to be there, to see that library? I have dreamt of being there, just to be a part of that.
The freedom to access books and other information is central to democracy, and its destruction is censorship. The People’s Libraries are one of the few places where the homeless can actually remove literature from a collection (can’t borrow a book from a public library if you don’t have an address).
This collection had been donated by thousands of people and businesses, and its very existence has huge cultural and historical significance on a global scale, as well as its monetary value. Even if the NYPD had to confiscate the collection, the destruction was unacceptable. Even if the collection were returned now, much of the items have been damaged and is no longer usable.
Which is why, at 2.30am, I am awake, and blogging about one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen. Nomatter what you think about the protests, the destruction of this library is not on!
Twitter’s @sglassmeyer and @cmz1018 put it best, I think.