Thu, Nov 17, 2011
Update from last night’s Brooklyn Bridge march:
The Occupy Wall Street movement poured into New York’s most populous borough as thousands of demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday evening.
Occupy protestors were joined by union leaders, political advocates, religious organizations, and student groups at Foley square as night fell over lower Manhattan’s financial district.
From there, they slowly moved in a procession toward the East River, expressing indignation over an array of economic and political issues, from the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“There is a great need for the movement to expand,” said Ben Becker, an organizer for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “There is some symbolism in us crossing the bridge into another borough and bringing our message to people outside of Manhattan.”
At a pre-march rally at Foley Square, surrounded by many of the buildings that house government power in New York City, speakers led chants, told stories of hardship, and aired grievances over a set of loudspeakers.
“We need jobs, not more budget cuts, not more austerity measures,” exclaimed one union representative.
A woman spoke of the economic hardship she has endured in recent years, claiming to have lost both her house and her husband as a consequence; a CUNY student condemned rising tuition costs; a man rapped in Spanish.
Soon after, the demonstration began a slow crawl toward the bridge as demonstrators moved along sidewalks, kept from the streets by barricades and cops in protective gear. Chants filled the air, including one directed at the watchful police: “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off your riot suit.”
Dozens of protesters, including City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, were arrested at the bridge’s entrance after sitting down in the street to block traffic, The New York Times reported.
The march often came to a complete standstill, muted shouts and dull rumblings in the distance ahead the only evidence that it hadn’t been entirely quashed.
Twice, waves of jeering disapproval rippled through the stretched mass of demonstrators as police vans full of the arrested passed by on Centre Street.
In its early stages, the Occupy Wall Street movement gained national media attention in part because of a failed Oct. 1 attempt to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, which resulted in over 700 arrests.
From yesterday morning’s protest:
As Occupy Wall Street activists assembled this morning across the street from a barricaded Zuccotti Park, an ominous warning spread through the crowd: be ready for conflict with the police, and document cases of abuse.
“If there is any misconduct, make sure you get the badge number and the name of the officer,” protesters advised, their message echoing through the so-called people’s mic. “It’s very important to get various angles of the same incident. If you’re recording, stay steady and firm.”
The protesters’ expectations of physical confrontation were fulfilled. Two months after the movement’s beginning, and two days after the occupiers were evicted from Zuccotti Park, activists sporadically engaged in pushing and shouting matches with police during marches designed to block workers and traffic at intersections surrounding the New York Stock Exchange. By midday, about 100 people were arrested, officials say.
The crowd was mercurial, showing organized restraint on one block and contentiousness on another. A sense that change had come, however, was consistent and pervasive
“The best thing that has happened yet was Bloomberg clearing out the park,” said 24-year-old James from Sleepy Hollow, who declined to give his last name. “It made it less material, less grounded in one thing.”
Just after 8:30 a.m., a group of protesters moving west on Beaver Street met a wall of police officers head on in front of a school at Broadway Education Campus.
In response to activists’ profane chants, an officer rebuked the crowd: “That’s how you talk in front of a school?”
They responded: “This is what you do in front of a school?”
Minutes later, protesters along the sidewalks shouted, “this is a nonviolent protest,” while those in the road scuffled with cops. Schoolchildren lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in classroom windows overlooking the turmoil, laughing and waving at the scene below.
More friction, this time between occupiers and civilians, erupted at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway. A counter-protester holding a sign that read “Occupy A Desk” voiced disapproval of the movement as bystanders attempting to go to work were turned away from a police barricade.
“I need my job,” shouted one woman in a heated exchange with protesters. “This is ridiculous. My employer is not going to understand. This is not the way.”
But the crowd had little sympathy for the throngs of civilian workers unable to get to work on time.
“I doubt they’re going to lose their jobs,” said Christopher Guerra, 27, of Newark. “I can assure you that any corporation will say OK, we can understand.”
A few blocks away, at Broadway and Exchange Plaza, close to a dozen protesters were arrested after they blocked off another intersection. Restrained and lined up against a wall, they broke into a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before being loaded into police vans.
By midday, and after dozens of similar confrontations and arrests, the protest had made its way back to Zuccotti Park. Barricades were dismantled by both activists and police, but tensions between the groups remained high as they pushed back and forth along the borders of the square.
A march across the Brooklyn Bridge is planned for this evening.