By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
February 2As a New York City police paddy wagon and NYC corrections department school bus drove up to the southwest corner of the midtown Plaza Hotel, nervous chatter skidded across the few thousand strong gathering of anti-World Economic Forum demonstrators. Police lines tightened and journalists and passersby were shooed onto corners.
Soon after, at approximately 2 p.m., a scuffle indeed broke out. As protesters began to march toward the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where the Forum is taking place, police isolated a group wearing bandanas across their faces, with a few clad in motorcycle helmets and swimming goggles. The activists carried plastic shields decorated with painted trees. Police moved in, pulling them out from the largely peaceful crowd, slapping plastic handcuffs on their wrists, and dragging them behind police lines.
A few rounds of pepper spray were fired as the crowd swelled and began to shout "Whose streets? Our streets." At least one medic confirmed treating a demonstrator for pepper spray.
No officer on the scene would confirm how many people were arrested or what they were charged with, but there were more than a dozen, and most likely they were cited for violating the city's obscure 1845 law against wearing a mask. Two protesters resisted arrest, prompting some five burly officers to sit upon them.
Police confiscated and smashed the plastic shields and a large puppet. But the charges can't all be based on the mask law. According to Mina McFarlane, a laywer and legal observer with the Mass Defense committee, one arrestee was a Jeremy Hutchens, an attorney with the National Lawyer's Guild in Washington D.C. He was not wearing a mask.
Two other arrests were made this morning at 10 a.m. at 57th street and Park Avenue at the International ANSWER rally, a police department spokesperson has confirmed. One person was charged with disorderly conduct, although the details as to what type of disorder are not available. The second person was released.
By some reports, the crowd today included an estimated 5000 people. At a press conference, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed 27 arrests outside the Plaza Hotel, and 36 altogether thus far, most for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.