Over 700 Arrested in Occupy Wall Street Protest as Movement Continues to Grow Across the Country

Well over 700 people were arrested in downtown Manhattan on Saturday as demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street protest attempted to march over the Brooklyn Bridge (see update below).  Shortly after 3pm, thousands of demonstrators stepped off from the protest's encampment at Liberty Plaza to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge for a planned picnic.  Hundreds remained behind at the encampment.  The march proceeded north on Broadway, remaining on the sidewalk, and then headed east toward the entrance of the bridge's  pedestrian walkway.  Those at the front of the march filed onto the pedestrian walkway, but at some point demonstrators began entering the Brooklyn bound vehicular roadway, which was free from traffic as the march crossed the street toward the pedestrian path.  Many protesters clearly understood that taking to the street represented an act of civil disobedience, chanting "take the bridge."  Organizers positioned themselves at the entrance to the bridge, shouting that the march was intended to go over the pedestrian walkway and that taking the street would be a direct action.  However, there was a lot of confusion about whether or not the bridge had been shut down so demonstrators could march across, with many seemingly believing that police were leading the demonstration across the bridge.  See this extensive video from the front of the march.  The New York Times City Blog describes the scene fairly accurately:
Where the entrance to the bridge narrowed their path, some marchers, including organizers, stuck to the generally agreed-upon route and headed up onto the wooden walkway that runs between and about 15 feet above the bridge’s traffic lanes.

But about 20 others headed for the Brooklyn-bound roadway, said Christopher T. Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who accompanied the march. Some of them chanted “take the bridge.” They were met by a handful of high-level police supervisors, who blocked the way and announced repeatedly through bullhorns that the marchers were blocking the roadway and that if they continued to do so, they would be subject to arrest.

There were no physical barriers, though, and at one point, the marchers began walking up the roadway with the police commanders in front of them – seeming, from a distance, as if they were leading the way.
Well over a thousand people entered the roadway.  Here's a pic I shot from the pedestrian walkway, showing how the crowd split between the walkway and the roadway:

The demonstrators quickly took over the street:

Many people falsely believed they would be escorted across the bridge by police who were walking at the front of the march.  However, eventually a police line approached the march from the opposite end of the bridge, stopping the protesters about a third of the way across.  A police line also followed the marchers onto the bridge, kettling the group there.  After some very tense moments, with scuffles between police and protesters as arrests were begun, protesters at the front of the march locked arms and police proceeded to arrest them one by one.

At the back of the march, police allowed some demonstrators to leave the bridge back toward Manhattan.  The rest were penned in with nets and were arrested over the course of the next few hours.  A video from the walkway above the roadway:

Those on the walkway were told by police that the bridge was being shut down and they must proceed to Brooklyn.  However, eventually, pedestrian traffic was opened up in both directions.  Back at the entrance to the bridge, scores of police officers blocked all traffic toward Brooklyn, and hundreds of protesters gathered across the street facing the bridge. 


If police had simply allowed protesters to walk across the bridge, the whole march would likely have been in Brooklyn in under an hour.  On the other hand, it likely took at least four or five hours to arrest all the protesters one by one and load them onto buses to take them to local precincts in Brooklyn and Manhattan for processing.  Many protesters believe they were essentially tricked into taking to the street across the bridge.  From the NYT again:
many protesters said they believed the police had tricked them, allowing them onto the bridge, and even escorting them partway across, only to trap them in orange netting after hundreds had entered.
“The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who marched but was not arrested.
The previous day, thousands had taken part in a rally and march against police brutality following the violent arrests of scores of protesters the week before.  By 6:30pm on Saturday, thousands of people had converged once again in Liberty Plaza and participated in the evening general assembly.  The protest's legal working group briefed the crowd on those who had been arrested.  A video:

Occupation protests are now underway in cities across the country.  Protest have been ongoing in Chicago for at least the last week.  Two dozen people were arrested in Boston on Saturday protesting home foreclosures.  Six were arrested during a similar action in San Francisco.  Hundreds have begun gathering in Los Angeles.  An occupation protest is set to begin in Washington DC this Thursday.  An umbrella site for the growing movement lists events planned in dozens of cities across the country.

Update:  People who are interested in learning more about what happened on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday have written in asking me if I was there (and if so, then where?), or if I was just building on the reports and words of others.  Good question, which I probably should have clarified.  Most of the video and pictures I have provided thus far on the Occupy Wall Street protests here at Politea are my own.  I took all the pics and video in this post myself.  I walked with the march from Liberty Plaza to the Brooklyn Bridge.  I did not plan to go all the way to Brooklyn, as I did not want to walk or take the subway back to Manhattan.  I was near the middle/back of the march.  When that portion of the march got to the entrance of the bridge, people in front of us were streaming onto the walkway and onto the roadway, and we were confronted by organizers explaining that taking the street was very different from taking the pedestrian walkway.  There were no police that I noticed providing any such guidance.  After a second's thought, I opted for the walkway.

I have been going down to the OWS site on a regular basis since it first started on September 17th because I think it may grow into a significant social-political movement.  And since I'm in NYC, I have the opportunity to provide first hand coverage for my dear readers from across the country here at Politea. Am I participating or am I observing?  The answer is both.  The line between observer and participant can become blurred very quickly in the often chaotic scenes at Liberty Plaza, especially on the protest marches.  Though I have spent the greater portion of my time there observing, doing interviews for Politea and CAIVN, or handing out copies of Third Party Independent, I have participated in a number of rallies and marches on issues which I support.


ajlounyinjurylaw said...

Having seen the NYPD swinging their night sticks on more than one occasion, I have two words of advice when dealing with NYPD cops: "Be polite."

Tyler said...

hows someone supposed to react to the police swinging nightsticks at them?

Marissa said...

The beauty of are country is the right to freedom of speech. So protest your heart away, peacefully.