The Evacuation of Zuccotti Park Has Begun

It's on! Or rather, it's off! Or maybe it's somewhere in-between! Hundred of NYPD officers have begun to "clear and restore" Zuccotti Park — the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement — which means forcibly removing the protesters who have been camping there for nearly two months.

There are 200 live-in demonstrators now facing eviction, and they aren't going quietly into the night. This despite a mayor's office announcement via Twitter that they "should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protestors can return after the Park is cleared." Suuure they will — and Lucy will let Charlie Brown kick the football! The New York Times reports they are responding with chants of "Whose park? Our park!" as police moved in.

The officers, who had gathered between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and then rode in vans along Broadway, moved into the one-square-block park shortly after 1 a.m. As they did, dozens of protesters linked arms and shouted "No retreat, no surrender," "This is our home" and "Barricade!"

By 1:45 a.m., dozens of officers moved through the park, some bearing plastic shields and wearing helmets. They removed tents and bedding materials, putting them on the sidewalk. Some protesters could be seen leaving the park with their belongings, but a core group of more than 100 hunkered down at the encampment's kitchen area, linking arms, waving flags, and singing and chanting their refusal to leave the park. They sang "We Shall Overcome," and chanted at the officers to "disobey your orders."

The latest reports have the number of arrestees as high as 25 and counting. Watch the showdown unfold in real-time in this live feed:

Watch live streaming video from occupynyc at livestream.com

Update: Mayor Bloomberg has released a statement about the raid, which you can find here. An excerpt:

I have become increasingly concerned – as had the park's owner, Brookfield Properties—that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community. We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park. But make no mistake—the final decision to act was mine."

[Photo credit: AP]