Ten demonstrators, part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, were arrested in Washington Square Park on Sunday just after midnight. The civilly disobedient wanted to occupy the park following a huge demonstration in Times Square earlier in the evening; hundreds gathered in the Greenwich Village green space afterward for a meeting of the general assembly.
Around 10 p.m., they occupied and surrounded the fountain, debating through the Human Microphone (with a man translating into sign language) whether to try to hold the park, though police made it clear that when the park closed at midnight they would arrest occupiers for trespassing.
About 20 pizzas, delivered by bicyclists from Two Boots, fed the crowd. (There were three stacks: cheese, pepperoni, and vegan.) The enormous megaphone sculpture that has been in Zuccotti Park arrived, as did a symbolic, life-sized human centipede sculpture. A well staffed medic station had been set up.
Police presence gradually increased as the number of occupiers did; by the arch, cops formed a line behind the crowd surrounding the fountain where the General Assembly debated whether to defy ordinance and remain in the park. “I believe people will help us,” an NYU student named Sean broadcast. “NYU is all around us. I believe they will help us.”
Police circled the fountain; a white shirt announced on a (real!) megaphone that those who remained in the park after midnight could be subject to arrest. On the Human Microphone, one man urged everyone to consider the consequences of their actions; what would getting arrested trying to hold Washington Square achieve? “Are you against parks closing at midnight?” he asked. “Occupy Wall Street needs real estate,” but he urged the crowd to find it strategically, not impulsively.
At 11:30, NYPD buses for transporting detainees surrounded the park, lights flashing. Ten minutes later, cops amassed beneath the arch in riot helmets. People formed an opposing line and took photographs. Police gathered in groups at every access point to the park. Protesters wrote the phone number of the National Lawyers Guild on their wrists. (The police take your cell phone when they arrest you.) Finally, a large exit march moved south, down Thompson Street, though dozens remained just outside the park to watch and protest the arrest of their fellow occupiers. They pleaded with police not to hurt those arrested and demanded stragglers be allowed to leave safely. A drummer kept an ominous beat.
Minutes after midnight, dozens of police moved into the park, surrounding the fountain, where those planning to stay had remained. Cops escorted legal advisers and news photographers from the site. Then those outside the park began to shame the police, both individually and as a group. “NYPD! Disobey your orders!” they chanted, reminding the officers that they were individuals with individual consciences. “We are you!” a speaker on the Human Microphone said. “You are us.”
“Cops! Are! The 99 percent!” they chanted.
Many police officers, including one carrying a clear plastic garbage bag filled with zip-tie handcuffs, were diverted to the Thompson Street exit: some formed lines to block entrance to the park, others tryied to disperse the raucous but non-violent crowd that had amassed on the sidewalks. (“Do not mistake our noise for aggression,” one man told police.) The cops kept the streets clear for traffic on Washington Square South, but would not let bicyclists pass, rerouting them instead along detours.
Eventually, police forced bystanders on the north side of Washington Square South to walk east. They then tried to disperse similarly the crowd on the southeast corner, which led to at least two people getting shoved, manhandled and possibly detained. Protesters on the southwest corner shouted, “fuck the pigs!,” which provoked a spirited impromptu debate about whether to condemn the police or to encourage them to join the movement.
Half an hour later, several empty police buses passed down Houston Street, disappearing down Mott.