A number of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested this morning during confrontations with the police on various streets in the Financial District. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne puts the number at 14. One man was run over by a police scooter, and this man was punched by a cop. Some people think that the way police handle OWS’ frequent marches is an effort to stir up confrontation.
We’ve been to enough OWS marches and rallies now to know what the pattern of showdowns between police and protesters looks like. It repeats itself again and again. This morning’s events are a good example.
First, protesters announced at the early morning General Assembly in Zuccotti that there would be an optional march on Wall Street, after finding out that Brookfield and the city had backed down from this morning’s “cleaning.”
After the march was announced, protesters milled about for a bit and a ragtag crew of about 200 or so set off down Broadway. We know of at least one other group that went in a different direction, marching north to City Hall. The southernmost group eventually swelled to a few hundred.
On Beaver Street (and then on Wall Street, Water Street, and Maiden Lane), protesters marched in the middle of the street, some yelling “Take the streets!” At first, there was little sign of cops (in itself curious. Do NYPD allow the protesters to take the streets up to a point, or are they not fast enough to keep them out?); then, a brigade of scooter cops arrived, trying to drive the crowd to the sidewalks. Some continued to stand in the street, and some were arrested. This pattern was repeated multiple times on different streets while the Voice followed the march. We’ve seen almost this exact situation play out before after the big union rally last week, which also ended in a few arrests. Marching; taking the streets; cops arrive on scooters or on foot; some protesters refuse to go to the sidewalk; (sometimes violent) arrests happen; and the cameras roll.
When things get physical with the NYPD, the OWS media coverage skyrockets:
(chart via Nate Silver’s NYT blog)
The Voice witnessed two positively violent encounters on Beaver Street today, one in which a young woman was lifted kicking and screaming by her hands and legs and carried away forcibly. And this video of a cop punching a guy in the face unprovoked isn’t pretty either:
The violent reactions from police are also part of the pattern, a pattern that protesters know by now. OWS doesn’t discourage people from getting into situations in which they might be arrested. Spokesman Patrick Bruner told us yesterday that when it comes to the possibility of being taken into police custody, “there are a variety of options that have been brought up in terms of how to resist. People are empowered to make that decision for themselves.” This morning in the crowd at Zuccotti before the announcement from the mayor’s office, a young man and woman next to us chatted about their “roles” for the morning (when the main event was supposed to be defending the park from eviction); “What’s your role?” the guy asked.
“To get arrested,” the girl said.