Monday, September 26, 2011

OccupyWallStreet - 9/24 @ University & 12th

I'm not sure how or when exactly, but I was made aware of the plan to occupy Wall Street sometime before last Saturday's occupation by a group simply calling itself #OccupyWallStreet - a handy twitter hashtag that makes use of the social media site to keep each other informed and organized. You can also stay informed via their webiste (

It started off innocuously enough last Saturday with a few hundred people decending on Liberty Plaza to stage a sit-in at Zuccotti Park. The occupation entered its 2nd week yesterday and up until then it had met with little controversy - a few daily arrests by the growing police presence around the park and a couple of videoed confrontations between police and protesters. 

There'd also been little press coverage and there had been the claim that the corporate controlled media was intentionally ignoring the protest in hopes it would dissipate without their attention. My personal belief is that the protests were too small and new to draw media attention. The group is also truly grassroots, having started in the forums of They don't have the deep pockets and media presence of the tea party, because they haven't had the support of insiders who could get the word out easiliy. Instead they have relied on their own media efforts. That's probably the right approach, but the lack of media attention was clearly frustrating to the organizers. 

All of that changed yesterday.

On Saturday, September 24th, around noon several thousand people began a march from Zuccotti Park to ... well, the destination didn't appear to be entirely clear - but the people began marching. The police, with the advantage of motorized transport and coordinated radio communications were able to stay one step ahead of the protesters and made the march very difficult to follow as the group zig-zagged through lower Manhattan, eventually arriving at Union Square. 

Union Square is where I caught up with the marchers having chased them uptown along their route, always a few blocks behind. And in Union Square, that's where things got surreal. 

The police blocked the marchers from heading East out of ths square, so the protesers switched to Southwest, streaming across 14th Street and around police fencing that had been set up to pen them in. We followed down University - behind a mass of probably 30-40 police officers who were following several hundred marchers.

Upon reaching 12th & University things got real. At least a dozen people were arrested, two women were pepper sprayed by an overzealous NYPD officer. One protester was bleeding from a head wound. A woman was shoved to the ground by an officer dragging an arrested protester away. All of the violence was instigated by the NYPD. The protesters remained peaceful throughout. Agitated once the police began using violence, no question, but at no time did I see a protester initiatve a physical altercation with a police officer. 

A block away another 50+ protesters were arrested while sitting peacefully on the sidewalk - where they'd been told to sit by the police. Including a PBS reporter who was trying to interview one of the women who was pepper sprayed. 


To see my photos from the altercation at University & 12th Street in Manhattan.

The unclear part of this whole thing, to me, is why didn't the police simply allow the protesters to return to Zuccotti Park? Why the show of force? What are they afraid of? 

I'm deeply ashamed to see such indiscriminate force used against peaceful proteters in my city. This isn't supposed to happen in the United States. Since when is it okay for the authorities to deny our citizens their first amendement rights? 

I attended this march mostly out of curiosity. Now I'm engaged. Word is that thousands of others have been similarly outraged and are now flooding the park with support and plenty of new activists. These are our children, our friends, our neighbors out there putting their freedom at risk for our country. You should too. 

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