Occupy Wall Street Wins Converts, Flummoxes Cops on Global Day of Protest
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“There’s press all over the place, they’re slowing everything down, get them moving,” one gray-suited police official, with a crewcut and a Secret Service-type earpiece, shouted into his cell phone as the march moved up Broadway. A block or so later, I felt a hand on my back. “Walk a little faster, that’s all I’m askin',” said a cop wearing a black jacket bearing a NYPD DCPI patch – indicating he was from the department’s public information outfit.
“Hey boss, I need some community affairs cops,” he yelled over the din to a superior in the street, throwing up his hands in exasperation. “Hey guys,” he shouted at me and some photographers, “we gotta walk.”
It turned out, however, that it was the police – those on scooters, beat cops on foot, NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit ( TARU) officers with hand-held video cameras and NYPD vehicles – who clogged the streets and slowed things down, negotiating block to block whether the march would go around this truck or cross this street.
But the march just kept moving at its own pace and the cops kept shouting for the crowd to “keep moving in an orderly fashion.” They’re lucky the marchers did. Had the protesters bolted in all directions at any point, the police would have been lost.
Hours after it kicked off, the march arrived in Washington Square Park, having lost none of its energy. While doctors in white coats, part of the “Heathcare for the 99 percent” movement, shared heartrending stories of patients without adequate insurance and college kids sat in a circle and planned possible school building occupations, the marchers took a breather and the cops grabbed some food.
Then as suddenly as they appeared, the marchers were off again and it was the cops, reacting slowly, who blocked streets and disrupted traffic.
“Whose streets? Our streets!” boomed the protesters as they streamed out of the park toward a rally in Times Square. As they made a right onto 6th Avenue, the Occupy Wall Street crew began chanting, “We are the 99 percent and so are you!” A crowd soon formed across the broad avenue as daytrippers and tourists snapped photos and shot cell phone video of the crowd.
“Stop watching, start walking,” a young woman in the middle of the march yelled, and she was soon joined by a chorus. Across 6th Avenue, some people waved, some smiled and some looked away. But a woman with a small child holding her hand moved forward and took a tentative step into the crosswalk. The crowd beckoned her forward, and while the young boy looked wary, she coaxed him on. In an instant, the crowd erupted in a loud cheer and gleeful applause as the pair crossed the street and joined the march. With two more recruits in tow, the women and men of Occupy Wall Street seemed to double the decibels as they launched into their signature chant: “We are the 99 percent!”
And off they went, heading north to Times Square and beyond.
Editor’s Note: The Occupy Wall Street march culminated with a rally in Times Square that drew thousands. According to wire service reports, 24 people were arrested -- most of them for trespassing, according to police -- at a Citibank branch near Washington Square Park, and another five were taken into custody near Times Square.