By COLLEEN LONG - Associated Press | Oct. 2nd, 2011
NEW YORK — Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other
grievances were maintaining a presence in Manhattan's Financial District
even after more than 700 of them were arrested during a march on the
Brooklyn Bridge in a tense confrontation with police.
The group Occupy Wall Street has been camped out in a plaza in Manhattan's
Financial District for nearly two weeks staging various marches, and had
orchestrated an impromptu trek to Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. They
walked in thick rows on the sidewalk up to the bridge, where some
demonstrators spilled onto the roadway after being told to stay on the
pedestrian pathway, police said.
The march shut down a lane of traffic for several hours on Saturday. The
majority of those arrested were given citations for disorderly conduct and
were released, police said.
The group had meetings and forums planned for Sunday at Zuccotti Park, the
private plaza off Broadway the protesters have occupied.
During Saturday's march on the Brooklyn Bridge, some protesters sat on the
roadway, chanting "Let us go," while others chanted and yelled at police
from the pedestrian walkaway above. Police used orange netting to stop the
group from going farther down the bridge, which is under construction.
Some of the protesters said they were lured onto the roadway by police, or
they didn't hear the calls from authorities to head to the pedestrian
walkway. Police said no one was tricked into being arrested, and those in
the back of the group who couldn't hear were allowed to leave.
"Multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the
pedestrian walkway and that if they took roadway they would be arrested,"
said Paul Browne, the chief spokesman of the New York Police Department.
The NYPD on Sunday released video footage to back up its stance. In one of
the videos, an official uses a bullhorn to warn the crowd. Marchers can be
seen chanting, "Take the bridge."
Erin Larkins, a Columbia University graduate student at who says she and
her boyfriend have significant student loan debt, was among the thousands
of protesters on the bridge. She said a friend persuaded her to join the
march and she's glad she did.
"I don't think we're asking for much, just to wake up every morning not
worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be
rice and beans again," Larkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
"No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful
that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the
more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world
Several videos taken of the event show a confusing, chaotic scene. Some
show protesters screaming obscenities at police and taking a hat from one
of the officers. Others show police struggling with people who refuse to
get up. Nearby, a couple posed for wedding pictures on the bridge.
"We were supposed to go up the pedestrian roadway," said Robert Cammiso, a
48-year-old student from Brooklyn told the Daily News. "There was a huge
funnel, a bottleneck, and we couldn't fit. People jumped from the walkway
onto the roadway. We thought the roadway was open to us."
Earlier Saturday, thousands who joined two other marches crossed the
Brooklyn Bridge without problems. One was from Brooklyn to Manhattan by a
group opposed to genetically modified food. Another in the opposite
direction marched against poverty organized by United Way.
Elsewhere in the U.S. on Saturday, protesters assembled in Albuquerque,
N.M., Boston and Los Angeles to express their solidarity with the movement
in New York, though their demands remain unclear. Occupy Wall Street
demonstrators have been camped in Zuccotti Park and have clashed with
police on earlier occasions. Mostly, the protests have been peaceful, and
the movement has shown no signs of losing steam. Celebrities including
Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon made recent stops to encourage the group.
During the length of the protest, turnout has varied, but the numbers have
reached as high as about a few thousand. A core group of about two hundred
people remain camped throughout the week. They sleep on air mattresses,
use Mac laptops and play drums. They go to the bathroom at the local
McDonald's. A few times a day, they march down to Wall Street, yelling,
"This is what democracy looks like!"
There has been a growing swell of coverage in mainstream media, but there
has been loud complaining the cause hasn't been championed fast enough —
or in the way protesters want.
Misinformation has added to the confusion. For instance, a rumor sprang up
on Twitter that the New York Police Department wanted to use tear gas on
protesters — a crowd-control tactic the department doesn't use. The claim
was eventually retracted, one of several such retractions over the past
several days. On Friday, a message said Radiohead would be performing in
solidarity for the cause, but the band's management said it wasn't
Earlier clashes with police have resulted in about 100 arrests. Most were
for disorderly conduct. Many were the subject of homemade videos posted
One video surfaced of a group of girls shot with pepper spray by NYPD
Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna. The woman claimed they were abused and
demanded the officer resign, and the video has been the subject of several
news articles and commentary. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said
internal affairs would look into whether Bologna acted improperly and has
also said the video doesn't show "tumultuous" behavior by the protesters.
A real estate firm that owns Zuccotti Park has expressed concerns about
conditions there, saying in a statement that it hopes to work with the
city to restore the park "to its intended purpose." But it's not clear
whether legal action will be taken, and police say there are no plans to
try to remove anyone.
Seasoned activists said the ad-hoc protest could prove to be a training
ground for future organizers of larger and more cohesive demonstrations,
or motivate those on the sidelines to speak out against injustices.
"You may not get much, or any of these things on the first go-around,"
said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a longtime civil rights activist who has
participated in protests for decades. "But it's the long haul that
Monday, October 03, 2011
By COLLEEN LONG - Associated Press | Oct. 2nd, 2011