By the end of last night’s Flood Wall Street demonstration in the Financial District, police had arrested 104 people, including one dressed as a polar bear, and pepper-sprayed a few more. The arrests were more or less expected — the organizers of the protest had said well in advance that they were planning to commit civil disobedience by staging a sit-in on Wall Street, which they did, first in the area around the Wall Street Bull and then near the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway.
The pepper-spray incident, which happened around 4 p.m., marked the ugliest point of the day. As rush hour approached, the hundreds of remaining protesters, who had been sitting at the Wall Street Bull since around noon, got up and began to march north on Broadway. In response, NYPD officers immediately barricaded Wall Street and Pine Street, one street north, as well as the far end of Broadway. The mood, which had been lighthearted for much of the day, a few previous arrests notwithstanding, turned quiet and very tense.
Photographer Jenna Pope, who was near the front of the march, says officers used pepper spray when the marchers tried to get past the barricades:
Protesters trying to push through barricades to wall st. Cops pushing, punching, and just used pepper spray. #FloodWallStreet
— Jenna Pope (@JennaBPope) September 22, 2014
As best we can tell from several videos of the incident, only one officer deployed pepper spray. It seems to have come as a bit of surprise even to the other officers around him, who had to duck to get out of the way:
The mood quickly calmed again, with protesters passing around pizza and cheerily pouring water in one another’s eyes to counteract the sting of the spray. The bulk of the arrests came hours later, around 9 p.m., after police gave several orders to disperse. They were conducted one at a time, with the crowd cheering and applauding each time someone was loaded onto the NYPD prisoner transport bus. Among the arrestees were a person in a polar bear suit, two women in Captain Planet outfits, and several people using wheelchairs:
Huge applause and the theme-song dung as the female Captains Planet are arrested. pic.twitter.com/5oVDEJ9SrW
— Nick Pinto (@macfathom) September 22, 2014
— #FloodWallStreet (@FloodWallStreet) September 23, 2014
Here’s a video of the polar bear getting arrested:
— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 22, 2014
The polar bear was released shortly before 3 a.m., as were most of the other protesters. There’s no word yet on just what they were charged with. During a civil disobedience training session yesterday, before the march began, event organizers told the protesters they believed they would most likely face only minor charges.
— Casper Ows (@Ows_Casper) September 23, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who during his candidacy called Michael Bloomberg’s handling of Occupy Wall Street “troubling” and vowed to handle protesters differently, hasn’t yet commented on the protest.
If you missed the excitement, there’s an excellent recap of the day’s events here:
This post has been updated with final arrests numbers from the NYPD. They arrested 104 people in total; we originally stated it was 102. One of those people was still a bear.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 23, 2014