Almost 200 people were arrested yesterday during demonstrations in celebration of Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary, including several on a chaotic afternoon march through the streets of lower Manhattan. In the morning, direct actions near Wall Street itself resulted in several arrests, but by noon the mood among protesters downtown was mellow, despite the heavy police presence: equestrian cops stood guard over Wall Street itself, and barricades lined the curbs of Broadway, the perimeter of Zuccotti Park and the curbs of the streets surrounding it.
The park was sparsely populated at lunchtime, a few hundred at most clustered around the west and east ends. “We are here today to say the 99 percent are back,” one speaker said in a Mic Check. “The people who crashed our economy are down the street,” another speaker said. “They recovered. Our communities did not. That’s why we’re still here.”
On Broadway, closer to City Hall, an occupier passing an open-deck sightseeing bus—one of many whose riders would gawk at protesters—shouted up, “tell the people back home the era of financial capital is over!” A small contingent came marching down Broadway chanting, “Wells Fargo, what the fuck? We bailed you out and you still suck!”
Zuccotti was full of performers: two men in grinning Obama and Romney masks who stood, arms around each other, answering questions about the “differences” between their policies. One man carried a large Bane puppet labeled Bain Capital; it fought a large Statue of Liberty puppet and lost. A children’s book-like series of paintings explained a proposed “Robin Hood tax” on financial transactions. (Earlier, organizers handed out Robin Hood caps, which became ubiquitous.) The “Tax Dodgers” baseball team strutted through the park. A woman with a donut tied by string to a wooden stick wandered the perimeter, sticking it out at cops, who mostly grinned. But they wouldn’t let her in the park. “There are a lot of people here,” the security guard said. “It could poke somebody in the eye by accident.”
The park was closed off except for entrances in the middle of Cedar and Liberty streets. At one, a protester tried to enter with large styrofoam blocks that looked like concrete police barriers, painted with OWS, but security and police wouldn’t let him. A white-shirt lifted one—”get this shit out of here”—and threw it out of the park, hitting me in the elbow. Earlier, when I’d arrived at the park, a police officer was eyeing suspiciously a balaclava’d man entering the park. “You check that retard’s bag?” the cop asked security, who said the man was ok.
The day wasn’t all peaceful. Shortly after 1 p.m., three to six demonstrators were arrested in front of the Bank America branch on Broadway across from the park for blocking access to it. One of the arrested told the crowd through a Mic Check as police pushed him into a paddywagon that they had been given an order to disperse but then were not allowed to do so. Cops closed the sidewalk afterward, exasperating workers from nearby buildings who’d stepped out for lunch. “How long do we have to wait?” asked one man, carrying a plastic bag. “Just arrest them all.” “Fuck you, you hippie piece of shit,” said another guy carrying a lunch bag to a group of occupiers. As protesters idled with passersby on the corner closest to the incident, police attempted to clear them. “Off the sidewalk,” a cop said, trying to push people onto other corners. “C’mon. Pick a side.”