NYPD Shuts Down Wall Street.
by Natalie Pace.
Protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement had hoped to take command of Wall Street on September 17, 2011, but the New York Police Department quickly showed them who was in charge, by barricading all entrances to the heart of America's financial institutions. Police began locking arms in front of the barricades and street lifts about 1:00 p.m. ET -- two hours before the General Assembly of the protest was scheduled to begin at Chase Manhattan Plaza. (The boys in blue obviously have a Twitter presence, too...)
The "Day of Rage" turned out mostly to be a day of peace. Only two arrests were made.
Media reports have called this movement "Marxist," "Guerrilla" and have claimed that the protestors are anti-Capitalist, "airy" hippies. However, anyone moving through the crowd and listening to their conversations wouldn't come to that conclusion. While the word has spread through the best viral mediums available, including Facebook and Twitter, the theme -- anti-Corporatocracy -- is one that attracts people from all stripes of life -- veterans, moms, families with children, young professionals (in sunglasses, hoodies and/or masks) and students. The crowd was predominantly 20-ish, with a majority of males, however, many were educated, and quite a few of the "speakers" spoke with an economist vernacular that suggests some may even have jobs on the street they are united against. You can't even assume these are young Democrats; I saw more than one picture of President Obama with a Hitler mustache.
You can hear some of the
Voices of Democracy from the Occupy Wall Street movement -- in their own words
-- on my YouTube.com/NataliePaceDOTCOM
channel. Links to a few are directly below.
As Barbara Ross, the press coordinator of Time's Up (an environmental group) and a participant in Occupy Wall Street, told me, "Corporations are too powerful in this country. They control the media and are more powerful than the politicians. This is a way to say that we want to have a voice again." Some people brought flowers with them. Others brought handmade signs and billowing billboards. Barbara's bike sported the only professionally made sign I saw on the first day of the protests, with the slogan, "Bicycling Against Oil Wars."
None of the flyers or the speeches that I witnessed suggested that Marxism, Anarchy or Violence is the answer. Most people sat peacefully and quietly in makeshift circles and took turns sharing what they thought should be the next step in this nascent movement. In fact, one young woman, who proposed that it was time for "Grass Roots Capitalism," was quickly corrected by another protestor, who suggested that Capitalism works -- when there is adequate regulation.
Indeed, it is quite apparent, that these protesters love their country and stand united against one enemy only. That enemy is not capitalism or free markets or even the NYPD. That enemy is quite simply, cronyism economics. It is clear that everyone was there as part of a movement that is simply You Vs. Wall Street. Chants of "Occupy Wall Street," and "Banks get bailed out, we get sold out" are being chanted as, day after day during the opening and closing bell of the New York and NASDAQ stock exchanges, hundreds of people parade down Wall Street, "escorted" by the NYPD.
On October 1, 2011, the 15th day of the Liberty Plaza occupation, over 700 protesters were arrested as the Occupy Wall Street protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge (source: NYPD). No one has an accurate head count of the number of protesters, however, it has been estimated that over 1500 marchers were in NYC on that day.
The most viral video on the protest came on Day 8, Saturday, September 24, 2011. 80-100 peaceful protesters were arrested for "blocking the sidewalk," and other minor infractions. The situation escalated when police officers corralled a group of young women with a net. While the young women were confused and protesting the entrapment, a white-shirted NYPD officer approached and sprayed them with what appears to be pepper spray.
In a telephone conversation on September 29, 2011, a spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed that the Internal Affairs Bureau and Civilian Complaint Review Board are both investigating the Pepper Spray incident, involving Anthony Bologna, that occurred on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011. I asked for details on any other disciplinary action that might be taken against NYPD Deputy Inspector Bologna, but have received no response from the NYPD.
What is compelling (and under-reported) is the compassion, wisdom, commitment and patience that underscores most of the protesters, even in the face of violence.
After the pepper spray attack, Chelsea Elliott, one of the young women who was sprayed, defended the NYPD, saying to the Village Voice, " "Most of the cops are really not like that. Most of the time they're with us. The cops around me were pissed that it happened. Yesterday, I think they were scared, and under a lot of pressure." Those sentiments were seconded by another protester, spokesperson Kelly Heresy, who appeared on Keith Olbermann's Countdown on Monday, September 26, 2011.
At least once a day, the group has a "General Assembly." Dr. Cornell West, professor, Princeton University, spoke at Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park) on Tuesday night, Sept. 27, 2011. Since there can be no amplification, the crowd repeats each sentence so that everyone can hear. Dr. Cornell West started his speech, saying, "There is a sweet spirit in this place. I hope you can feel the love and inspiration of those everyday people who take a stand with great courage and compassion because we oppose the greed of Wall Street oligarchs."
To see the video of Dr. West's speech, visit OccupyWallSt.org.
Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore and former governor David Paterson have also visited Occupy Wall Street.
During the week after the violence of September 24, 2011 (and before the clash on October 1), things were relatively quiet. It's as if both sides plan all week and then have a big confrontation on the weekends. Many allies of the protesters have day jobs, and the numbers of the movement can swell by 7X or more on the weekend. True to the pattern, Occupy Wall Street spokespersons confirmed that only five people were arrested on Monday, October 3, 2011, for "wearing masks.".
The protesters who can continue to sleep in the park, surrounded by police who make no attempt to break things up. Some people in the movement Occupy Wall Street sleep on cardboard, others in sleeping bags and some locals go home to freshen up and return in the morning. Others commute from local colleges. Some hitchhike across America to join the group. They are cleaning up their trash and staying quiet. Donations of food and money are coming in from around the world.
The police have erected a portable surveillance camera on the crowd, and certain areas, like Wall Street and the famous Wall Street bull sculpture remain fenced off and off-limits to the protesters.
Is this the beginning of a Main Street versus Wall Street movement across America? Occupy Wall Street reports that "There are occupations in 147 US cities and 28 cities around the world including London, Paris, Switzerland & Cologne." Indeed, I've been receiving video and photos from across the U.S. -- from Asheville, North Carolina, to Los Angeles, to Washington D.C.
On September 17, 2011, Day of Rage was a Top 10 search trend on Google.
Stay tuned in. This story gets bigger every day. I continue to provide almost daily updates in the comments section of my HuffingtonPost blog, "NYPD Shuts Down Wall Street."
About Natalie Pace: