An Incredible Show of Solidarity, Followed by Police-Induced Confusion and Violence, at Occupy Wall St.
This afternoon, thousands of students, union members, and activists, the compassionate and the fed-up, gathered at Foley Square to march to Zuccotti Park, also (and formerly) called Liberty Plaza. At Foley Square, speakers representing different unions declared their solidarity with Occupy Wall St. and emotionally expressed their concern for the 99% of America exploited by corporations and their government. The teachers said they were fighting for the students - our futures - and their families; the nurses said they were sick of watching what Wall St. is doing to patients; and the SEIU said they were sick of greedy bankers stealing money from the people. It was a new conglomeration of frustrated workers, the un-employed, and students - many of whom will graduate into a crisis where jobs are nearly impossible to find, but the interest on school loans keeps piling up.
The energy pouring out of different people united under one common goal - to fight greed and return money back to the workers - was unstoppable. People were tired, angry that they lost their jobs, their schools, and their public services as Wall St. got richer. They were all races, ages, religions, and sub-cultures. They were the 99%, and they marched all the way from Foley Square to Liberty plaza. Some even marched from Liberty Plaza to Foley Square, then turned around and came back. But after that, things turned violent.
For the march from Foley to Liberty, organizers obtained a permit and police interfered little with the demonstration. Barricades, however, kept protesters on a minimal section of the street. Following the massive march, thousands of organizers and high-profile supporters, including Michael Moore and Reverend Billy, revved-up the crowd for what was intended to be a historic march on Wall St. The momentum building up to the un-permitted march was lost in the mobs of people blocked once again by police. Cops put barricades up on the sidewalk to prevent the demonstration from reaching Wall St., at the corner of Broadway. Horses, NYPD pick-up trucks, and an NYPD bus arrived at the scene. As organizers attempted to have an assembly behind barricades and determine the next steps, chaos broke out and several people were pepper sprayed. Even more were arrested.
At the same time, a violent conflict erupted between police and organizers spanning the length of the park on Broadway. The tension rose until one man, who demonstrators say threw something a cop, sprinted threw the park. Protesters chased after him, angry with him for breaking their characteristic non-violence.
As confusion turned into disappointment on the street, hundreds stayed gathered inside of the park. Some protesters were demanding to march again; other people were sitting around idle.
A smaller group of demonstrators attempted to approach Wall St. from a different angle, but a large fleet of police on motorcycles trapped them again. One protester was beaten quite severely. When he finally came up for air, surrounded by motorcycles that had been knocked over as at least three cops swarmed him, his face was red with bruises, scrapes, and blood. The police were angry, even scared. A white-shirt cop ordered a protester to remove the collar blocking his mouth, and the demonstrator asked why. Two cops responded by saying "fucking look up the law yourself" and "don't fuck with a cop." When the crowd rushed to cross the street, the police charged them, attacking from the side. Night sticks came out and there was a struggle that dismantled after people shouted to turn back. Throughout the ordeal, two demonstrators threw plastic bottles at the police, to the dismay of the non-violent majority. Then, after being barricaded again, medics and other organizers suggested people head back to the park. A mic-check conducted afterward blamed disorder and lack of organization for the arrests and beatings. Speakers condemned the violence and chaos.
After two harsh confrontations with the police, some demonstrators had not lost their energy and were gearing up to march again. Others were not so sure it would happen. "People are just pissed - they're pissed and they're crazy right now," said one demonstrator who "doubted" they would march again.
Still, hundreds remained in the park. And while Occupy Wall St. facilitators may not have been prepared for the masses that strolled through the plaza, they are prepared to spread their message, and they have the support to do it. As the movement grows, Occupy Wall St, like all movements, will face obstacles. Complications will arise, and imperfection will surface. But in the belly of the movement, they remain non-violent and organized. They are empowered by larger numbers, they have learned, and they are preparing to deal with a new make-up.
Update: There is a heavy police presence surrounding Liberty Plaza. A rumor is circulating that police may shut it down tonight, but some officers say the suggestion is false.