Police cleared out Occupy Wall Street's Zuccotti Park encampment early this morning, and in the process arrested hundreds of protesters. A judge has upheld Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision that protesters can no longer camp out at the site, casting the future of the protest in the park in doubt. Though many were shocked by this turn of events, it came as no surprise to Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who has been active in the Occupy movement around the world. "We all knew that eventually the empire would strike back," he tells Rolling Stone. "But frankly, this is just what we needed. They have stirred the hornet's nest big-time. After this action last night, I think [the movement] is going to go through the roof. I think it’s going to energize on a global scale."
Folk legend David Crosby, who recently performed in Zuccotti Park with Graham Nash, also expected this to happen. "There wasn't any way they were not going to throw those people out of the park," he tells Rolling Stone. "[Occupy Wall Street is] just way more of a threat than they realize. The effect that a few people have camping out in a park is completely disproportionate to the fact of their being there... The park is just a spark. That's only the beginning."
Fitz and the Tantrums frontman Michael Fitzpatrick visited the Zuccotti Park encampment earlier this month while in town for a concert at Manhattan's Terminal 5. "I don’t think the protesters are going to give up very easily, that's for sure," he says. "We’ve been on tour for the last few months, and every city we go to, there’s an Occupy Wall Street movement happening."
Still, Fitzpatrick worries that the Occupy message is getting muddled. "The message really is about the excesses of unregulated corporate and financial market greed, and I just wonder now if the actual Occupy Wall Street movement itself is overshadowing the message," he says.
Morello is more confident in the Occcupy movement's ability to adapt after this setback. "They’ll see that this is the kind of police-state reaction that we’ve expected, that other cities have faced too, in Portland and in Oakland, and every time we come back smarter and every time we come back harder," he says. "The Occupy movements are not going to outgun the police forces, but we clearly have the moral high ground, and the whole world is watching. The country realizes that the corporate malfeasance that has undermined the global economy has pushed so many middle class people into poverty and so many poor people into homelessness needs to be held accountable, and there is no amount of pepper spray that can make that go away."
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• Crosby and Nash at Occupy Wall Street
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• Pete Seeger Marches in Support of Occupy Wall Street
Additional reporting by Andy Greene.