February 2Direct-action insiders here for the World Economic Forum anticipated an action at CHARAS, the East 9th Street community center evicted in December. The building, scene of CHARAS's long and lost battle with developer Gregg Singer, symbolized for them corporate greed. Had CHARAS still had possession of it, the converted school would have made a perfect convergence center for incoming out-of-towners. And the wooden boards now surrounding the building were no small reminder of the fence walling off free-trade delegates in Quebec City last April-those boards, like that fence, were waiting to be torn down.
Protesters even anticipated the NYPD taking a heavy hand against the action. What wasn't expected was how quickly the police rushed to the scene and how roughly the protesters were dealt with.
Around 10:45 last night, a crowd of about 30 longtime CHARAS supporters, out-of-town WEF protesters, and Manhattan kids, came around the corner of Avenue C and 9th Street, singing festively as they marched toward their former safe space.
One kid banged on the front of the building, while a couple of others yanked on the boards, managing to pull off two planks of wood. Instantly, at least two dozen police officers, some in plain clothes, rushed from the direction of Avenue B, running with nightsticks held high above their heads. One female officer shouted, "Cuff anyone who's running!" Five or six activists were thrown to the ground and beaten with sticks.
"It was really ridiculous, absolute police brutality," said John Spiegler, 15, who had just come from a punk show when he witnessed a close friend being hauled off. "They handled this the wrong way." In the end, five protesters were arrested, proof of the zero-tolerance attitude police had promised.
A police spokesperson this morning said the five were charged with attempted burglary and were likely awaiting a court hearing today.
Before today, eight people had been arrested as WEF protesters, including seven ACT UP members who have been released.