NYC’s First Annual “Get Arrested” Day: An Eyewitness Account

Sorry this took freakin’ forever, guys.

As you may have heard, this Saturday those changeaholics down in Lower Manhattan threw down again, this time raging on the Brooklyn Bridge. Over the course of the weekend, estimates of the number of arrests rose from 400-500 to 700The Argus puts the number of Wesleyan students arrested at 5.

That’s about all the fair and balanced reporting you’re going to see here, folks. For a bunch of drug-addled recollections from a hippy-dippy spoiled college brat who tagged along to bum some American Spirits, click past the jump.

When my group of five arrived in Liberty Plaza (or Zuccotti Park, if you’re a CORPORATE PIG) around noon, it looked, at a glance, similar to how it was the first Saturday of the occupation. On the Broadway side of the park, a meditation circle carried on for maybe an hour until breaking into a generic peacenik drums-and-dancing mob, presumably started by the Arts & Entertainment working group in between planning sessions of the first Liberty Plaza Gallery Show (not really). People handed out copies of the Occupied Wall Street Journal or the latest issues of socialist publications (both unconnected with the library established in the park earlier this week). The sound of a generator and a small barricade surrounded the media center, where some techno-blogheads posted YouTubs into their Twatspaces for the whole world to see. Tarps covered sleeping bags, backpacks, and other gear in the lower half of the park, bordered on one side by dozens of cardboard signs. They were laid out along the park’s side so that curious passers-by, 20 or 30 at a time could read them. Next to these signs was a creation station equipped with paint, markers, cardboard, and other things we have fancier versions of in the CFA. Most importantly, free food was abundant.

 

Beginning at about two, the numbers in the park swelled from hundreds to a thousand or more as protesters gathered (many from the SlutWalk, held earlier the same day); reinforcements included more Wellesleyan students for a total of about 20 seasoned activists. Who could know that 5 of them would get to spend the night thinking long and hard about what naughty children they were, sent to bed with no dinner.

 

Oh, btdubs: we made a cool canvas banner to show #solidarity with the protest (jk again: Admissions made us do it). It was super effective: three different Wes alums (Tim ’05, SorryIforgot Yourname ’05, Mymemory Is-Horrible ’08) approached us in the park or on the march on account of it. To Hannah-from-Pratt: thanks for helping out with the spray paint, bro.

At three, we marched. There’s signs and chanting and mass street-crossings and police escorts and occasional confusion and all that jazz. Playas is takin’ pickchaz:

We made our way north from Libercotti Plark escorted by scooter cops (as always), contained to the sidewalks. At the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, near City Hall, things began to get confusing. There are plenty of news accounts attempting to pin down whether the police led demonstrators to march on the Brooklyn Bridge and/or were repeatedly warned against it, so I’ll skip all that – from my point of view, all I was aware of was that we were flooding both the pedestrian path and roadway. At some point, I jumped a fence when I saw others do the same, to a path adjacent to the one I was on; turned out that I had crossed from the road onto the pedestrian walk, and that split-second decision probably kept me from the prolonged bonding (and bondage? ;]]]]] ) time I was so looking forward to in a holding cell later that night.

As the bridge marchers and road warriors marched pretty much side by side (for a while, a trickle of cars ran alongside or within the protesters, but were completely blocked off in a few minutes), it seemed like the police, walking alongside or in front of the march, were going to permit the march to keep on keepin’ on. In triumphant words of Borat: “NAAHT!” There’s all kinds of coverage attempting to tease out the exact story, which collectively go into far more detail than pretty much any one person there could have been able to provide. So I’m not gonna try to piece together the big picture any further than what I was able to observe at the time, which was this: as those of us on the pedestrian bridge walked alongside/above the roadway, we came to a stop when the police at the front deployed an orange kettling net and stopped the march on the bridge. It seems like people attempted to leave by turning back, but at some point the path of return was blocked too. There was tension for a while as protesters variously pondered facing the police line head on, attempting to filter out somehow, or sitting down as an act of civil disobedience. Then the arrests began.

From the front end, people were being pulled one at a time, maybe every 30 seconds or so, from the edge of the crowd facing the police. People on the bridge confirmed that something similar was happening at the rear end, as well. I only witnessed one major exception to the largely resistance-free arrests (demonstrators eventually began to occasionally turn around and offer their hands, as they realized that yes, the police really were going to arrest pretty much everybody on the bridge): one man, who attempted to sink into the crowd when a white-shirted commander reached for him, was extricated by at least six cops and held to the ground (for maximum control and smoothness of ride in ziptie application). Otherwise, resistance was limited to chants and shouts from onlookers on either part of the bridge and complaints from cuffed folks whose zipties were too tight or otherwise roughly applied. On the pedestrian bridge, people attempted to gather names and birthdates of the arrested, as the National Lawyers’ Guild (observing the protests from day one for incidents like this) recorded what they could. There was an abundance of cameras – for a short time, I was next to someone whose computer was streaming the events to the internet live.

This whole sequence was a little surreal. For a while we watched, but at some point it looked like the police might detain those of us on the walking bridge as well – word was that they had blocked off either side. In the end, we were escorted off by police, with hundreds of arrests still to go. Those of us who took our sweet time observed a few people leaving the bridge apparently without being detained – what seemed to be a group of journalists, a line of women walking with locked arms, and some others whose common factor we couldn’t quite identify.

I’ll stop here because this is ridiculously long and that’s pretty much the most potentially interesting part. Long story short, I made it back to the park, attempted to assess how many Wes students / people were arrested on the day, found my ride, and made it back to Middletown with three less people in my car than we left that morning with. This isn’t the end of the Wall Street story by a long shot, though. Protests are going into the third week with about as much support as ever, with some major actions planned for the week. Expect upcoming Wesleying posts concerning information meetings (with transportation arrangements, potentially!) and a film screening this coming Sunday soon.

[Excellent photography courtesy of the Argus and Andy Ribner ’14. View the whole album on the Argus website.]

3 thoughts on “NYC’s First Annual “Get Arrested” Day: An Eyewitness Account

  1. Pingback: Today’s Roosevelt Fireside Chat – Wesleying

  2. quest

    the bigger the better: EVERYBODY GET TO NYC. lets keep this thing growing, that’s how change happens!

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