February 2—As 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
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
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.