Dismantling an Occupation 5,554 Books at a Time

photo courtesy of the LA Times

Like most people in NYC, I awoke Tuesday morning to read about the eviction of the occupiers down on Wall Street. I’m not getting in to any kind of political diatribe. I’m just sticking to the books but the occupiers were thrown out in the “early morning” (read: middle of the night). They were not allowed to take any items with them; no tents, no African drums, and definitely NO BOOKS. You can read all over the internet about this: LA Times, Village Voice, Media Bistro. A huge collection of donated books were collected into a makeshift library downtown. According to the LA Times,

The library, which started out as a box of books and grew to a collection of more than 5,000, was originally out in the open air. Rocker, poet and National Book Award winner Patti Smith donated a tent to house the library and protect the books from the weather.

Even though Bloomberg says that the evicted can start picking up belongings on Wednesday, it has been reported that the NYPD trashed all of the books in dumpsters. As a book lover and writer (and human being), I find this all very appalling. In regards to the dumped books, I am uncomfortable and I get a feeling of dread just thinking about the whole destruction. Maybe we are inherently turned off by book trashing because of film footage of book burnings from WWII and the high school English class staple,  Fahrenheit 451. Even the idea of ripping a cover off a book seems like it should be at least a misdemeanor.

But my hyperboles are making me digress.

This whole mess has reminded me of the research I have been doing since the beginning of the year. My topic: Nazis and plundered art during WWII. The wonderfully detailed Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas was my entree into this topic (if you are a lazy lout, you can watch the equally as wonderful documentary based on the book).

Very much in trend with their book burning, the Nazis deemed many artists to be “degenerates” and would gather up as much as they could (and by gather, I mean steal). Hitler and his close circle kept the pieces of art that they deemed Germanic and Aryan for themselves and shucked the degenerates in to storage. Because of the nature of the war (bombs, destruction), many works of art were lost and have never been found.

Only the worst can come from the destruction of art and literature. An OWS librarian was apt in his/her statement,

NYPD destroying american cultural history, they’re destroying the documents, the books, the artwork of an event in our nation’s history


  1. Amen. This is such an incredibly disheartening development. When I first read about it yesterday it just brought to mind images of Savonarola and his Bonfires of the Vanities, or the Nazi book burnings, or the countless other times in history where the destruction of culture and learning has been used as a tool of repression and oppression. I was briefly relieved to hear that the books had been saved, but this morning I read more stories that indicated that only a small number of the books had been saved, and that much else (including that tent) was missing or destroyed. Tragic.

  2. Hearing about the destruction of books, or any art for that matter, always gives me the chills. I don’t want to get into a political discussion, but it’s disgusting that some politicians want to get rid of fine arts, liberal arts, and other classes they don’t deem worthy enough.

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