Saturday, October 01, 2011

Protesters wanted to get arrested on Brooklyn Bridge

(For my complete report on the protest, click here.)

In the #OccupyWallStreet protests, there are claims that the police deliberately led protesters onto the roadway, and then arrested them for being on the road blocking traffic.

I don't know, I wasn't there.

But I was at a Starbucks near Zuccoti park listening to two protesters (young white mails with facial hair and pony tails) about an hour before the march. They were talking about how they were going to march to the Brooklyn bridge, and how it was going to disrupt traffic, and how that was going to lead to arrests. They laughed at this, hoping it would happen, because "that'll finally get us on the news".

I didn't get the impression that they were planning to go out on the roadway and disrupt traffic. My impression, though, was they knew it was going to happen, probably because that's what happens when you march a few thousand protesters up to the bridge. Indeed, as the protesters later marched by the Starbucks on the way to the Brooklyn bridge, I noticed occasional people get out onto the roadway, and cops telling them to get back onto the sidewalk.

This is my impression of the protesters. They aren't necessarily lawless or violent, but they do seem interested in pushing the police to their limits. Even though they mostly follow police directions, not a single one (that I talked to) thinks of the police as being equally on their side. Whereas I see the police being tolerant of minor infractions, the protesters complained how the police was constantly harassing them over miner infractions. Their view is that if you aren't with them toting a placard, then you must out to oppress them.

As you can see in this video, the crowd is happy that they are getting arrested.

My point is: the accusation that "it's the police's fault" that protesters were out on the road way is pretty hard to believe.

Update: This NYTimes article describes the incident. It doesn't claim that the police deliberately guided them onto the roadway, but that protesters were confused about where to go.

But, as I indicate above, at least some protesters knew that going onto the roadway would get them arrested.

Update: This link is a first hand account of somebody that happened to go for a walk with the protesters and got arrested. Before the march:
As we loitered a young woman handed me a flier that described my legal rights and urged me to write down the number of the National Lawyers Guild on my arm.

“You planning on getting arrested today?” I said.

“You never know,” she said.

Update: Another eyewitness account

Looking at photographs, I find core occupiers from the Central Committee among those arrested for being on the roadway. These are the people who should've know what would happen, even if most other protesters didn't.


Noah said...

How does posting on a blog saying you "over heard" some protesters talking make your point any easier to believe. Its just your word against everyone else. And even if you did hear 1 or 2 protesters that only represents a small fraction of the inter group of protesters. No way they spread that message to everyone. I just don't buy this story. What real evidence do you have to make this claim? Additionally, even if there was warnings made why would they let them walk onto the road way? That is a big crowd no way that message will get to everyone. They should have just put up the nets and corralled them to the walkway or to another destination. If they really cared about the safety and the general public they would not have led them on to the road way in the first place. Your claim is seriously flawed.

jhg said...

I am the poster of that video and must speak up - first of all, you can clearly hear all of us very angered by being blocked by the police. And as a demonstrator, someone who chose to take the walkway and not the street, there was MUCH confusion about where to walk. I only chose the walkway after initially walking onto the street after one of the organizers warned my friends and I that we "may risk arrest" if we walk on the street. Many did not hear this announcement, many did not know we had no permit to walk there (I didn't initially), and many did not realize the police--who were standing RIGHT nearby--were against us walking on the street. If they were so against it, then why didn't the 100s of police officers standing right by the bridge prevent us from continuing on? It was purposeful confusion and/or POOR POLICE WORK. As the famous John Lennon quote goes - "The only thing they [the establishment] don't know how to handle is non-violence and humor."