Three protesters were arrested this morning after attempting to chain themselves together across the exit ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge.
The action was part of a larger protest against corporate influence in politics and the 2010 Citizens United decision.
Billy Livsey, one of those arrested, said he had used the same technique, involving chains and bike locks, in ACT UP! demonstrations in New York and Los Angeles in 1989 and 1990.
“The hope is that actions like this are going to make the news,” Livsey said beforehand. “Because Occupy Wall Street isn’t making the news these days, and when it does, the larger message isn’t getting through.”
The action clearly didn’t go entirely as planned: the activists said they intended to chain themselves together, locking the knots of chain around their bodies with combination locks, and then affix themselves to the barriers on either side of the narrow roadway with bicycle locks around their necks. But after laboriously chaining themselves together behind the food kiosk next to 1 Center Street and making their way into the roadway, they found they hadn’t left enough slack in the chain to stretch across the street. They sat down, blocking traffic, but got back up when an angry motorist charged out of his car.
“What are you doing? The driver shouted. “There’s an ambulance on the bridge trying to get through!” Shrewd gamesmanship — the protesters got up and retreated to the sidewalk, and traffic flowed on. There was no ambulance.
New York is a city of second chances, however. As they adjusted their chains and planned another attempt, the demonstrators got some unsolicited advice from a middle-aged passer-by who’d watched the abortive first attempt.
“You’ve got to be more organized if you want to stand up for justice,” she told them. You’ve got to measure! You need more chain! What are you protesting, anyway?”
Chains adjusted, the three made their second attempt on the roadway just as a march of their fellows rounded the corner, escorted by dozens of police officers. They hastily rushed into the intersection, skipped the bike locks, and sat, again blocking traffic.
It didn’t take long for police to respond. As First Precinct Commanding Officer Edward Winsky announced over a bullhorn that they had to move or face arrest, one of the demonstrators, who identified herself only as Christina, shouted “Corporations should not be able to give billions of dollars and expect favors from our politicians!”
Police made short work of the chain, and soon the three were being loaded into a police wagon, as a supportive crowd of demonstrators looked on, chanting “Corporations are not people! Money is not speech!”
“All of our other issues are linked to this one,” Christina had said earlier in the morning in Zuccotti Park. ” It’s a lynch-pin issue. “We can go on as many fracking marches as we want, but as long as corporations are pouring millions of dollars into the government to support their cause, it’s not going to work…. We can’t do anything about this huge array of issues until we do something about corporate control of our government.”