Occupy the NYSE: Huge Crowd Overwhelms Financial District to Kick Off OWS Day of Action
The NYPD and the press had already occupied Wall Street proper by the time we got downtown, broadcast trucks and cameras and barricades blocking the entrance.
It was 6:30 in the morning when we arrived at the red cube statue across the street from the sadly-barricaded Liberty Plaza (where just last night, police raided the second People's Library and took all the books, along with energy bars that protesters were snacking on). The signs were already out in abundance--pre-printed signs from the National Nurses United calling to "Heal America, Tax Wall Street" and a beautifully-drawn cardboard sign reading "Take the Banks' TARP Too!" A young man behind us held the official Zuccotti Park rules and regulations, liberated from the park.
Once again, we knew that just by being here, we could be subject to arrest, and so even journalists were Sharpie-ing the National Lawyers Guild number on our forearms as we sipped coffee and joked. The crowd rapidly swelled, packing us close in the tiny square between food carts and riot police in the street on Broadway.
A People's Mic called our attention; two rounds of shouts in the crowd and we were told that there would be two marches, one behind a black flag and one behind a green flag. The black flag march rolled out right away; we hovered behind the green march as a young woman came to tell us that our risk of arrest was significant just for being on this march, but that there would be red flags attempting to lead people away from danger if there was opportunity.
Four helicopters (at least) buzzed overhead as we hovered in the park, more and more coming in to join us. By the time we headed out, the square was full again.
We streamed out past the line of unsmiling riot police, down Broadway. We were stopped at Pine Street and turned left, streaming down the sidewalks as the police filled the streets.
At Nassau and Pine, we came upon the end of the other march, and in the street on Nassau were riot cops, mounted police, and the notorious "Hipster Cop".
"Whose streets? Our streets!" rang out as the crowd thronged into the intersection; protesters sat down in the streets. A marching band played in the street as we squeezed through the crowd and moved up Pine toward William St.
The standoff at William quickly grew tense despite the presence of protesters dressed as trees, dancing to the sound of "Which Side Are You On?" from the band and chanting "Hey Bloomberg, Beware, Liberty Park is Everywhere!"
Police attempted to push through, batons out, shoving the crowd back onto the sidewalk as behind me, AlterNet contributor J.A. Myerson slipped through and sat down in the street. Cheers erupted as we saw him loaded into the van.
Despite the crush of people on the sidewalk, the marchers were orderly enough for calls for a medic to be heeded; first the People's Mic directed the crowd toward the medic, but then the crowd parted to let the jackets with red tape crosses through. The crowd changed their chant to "You're Sexy, You're Cute, Take Off Your Riot Suit," and a few protesters attempted to reason with the riot police between shoving matches.
Reports on Twitter came in that retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis was arrested (voluntarily) and that police also arrested a woman in a wheelchair--but unable to load her into any vehicles, let her off with a ticket.
At 9:15, someone People's Mic'd an announcement that the NYSE opening bell had been delayed--but the bell went off on time, at 9:30. There was some discussion back and forth among the crowd as to what time the bell would ring, but then everyone's attention was distracted by a red-haired woman in a floor-length red gown, singing opera with her fingers raised in a peace sign, face-to-face with a line of police across the intersection, right next to Our Lady of Victory Church.
As she finished and took a bow, the crowd slowly began to sing the national anthem, interrupted only by a shout of "NO bombs bursting in air!"
We moved back down to Nassau and Pine, where five rounds of the People's Mic rang from corner to corner as the police had the intersection blocked off: men and women in business suits were allowed through, while anyone who looked like a protesters was blocked. A man in a suit dressed as Cookie Monster from Sesame Street apparently didn't make the cut, and someone behind me called "I could wear that suit better!"
Reports of Long-Range Acoustic Device, the "sound cannon" used on protesters during the midnight raid on Liberty Plaza, were later confirmed by photograph, though I didn't hear them.
According to Salon's Justin Elliott, the National Lawyers Guild reported at least 80 arrests this morning, though there was no confirmation as of yet from the NYPD.
As we left, walking back up Pine street and turning left on William through the same intersection we'd been shoved out of earlier, I snapped a photo of Our Lady of Victory church and thought about a tweet from author and journalist Jeff Sharlet, who'd commented:
Numbers aren't the story #n17. They're small. yet they're punching way above weight. Hundreds of thousands RNC 04 didnt achieve this much.
They may not have shut down the stock exchange, but thousands filled the streets before sunrise on a weekday to march at risk of arrest, to express solidarity with those thrown out of the park and send a strong signal to Wall Street and the world: We're not going away.