February 2—Direct-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
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.