The Ugliness of Force

photographs by Julia Xanthos

February 3-New York City police have been quietly savoring a public relations victory this weekend as they've so far corralled demonstrators at the World Economic Forum and kept property destruction to a minimum.

But that doesn't mean their work has been pretty-or peaceful. These photos capture the scene that erupted today after 20 or so demonstrators began marching against traffic up Third Avenue in lower Manhattan. Cops quickly moved in, as if they knew the protesters were coming. As the blues poured in and the billy clubs started flying, the crowd swelled to some 200 activists, who broke off into impromptu games of Ring-Around-the-Rosie, chanted the familiar refrain of "Whose streets? Our Streets" and refused orders to get out of the road and onto the sidewalk.

Police began making arrests, wrapping activists' wrists with plastic cuffs and putting people on paddy wagons. Since the Forum began last week, the official arrest tally has risen to 46-a much smaller number than activist and law enforcement insiders anticipated. At 6:30 p.m., the NYPD didn't have a full count of those picked up today, but in a press release activists said 60 people were arrested and one person knocked unconscious. Later reports brought the arrest total citywide to 154.

Today's civil disobedience may provide a prelude for demonstrations tonight and tomorrow, as activists move away from the heavy police presence near the Forum's headquarters at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and create spontaneous disturbances around the city. They seem to be enjoying the game of cat and mouse. Some this afternoon were heard joking they'd make the cops miss the Super Bowl.

If the folks in blue do miss the game, at least they'll have been paid well. Early estimates of overtime cost to the city have run as high as $11 million.

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