Five o’ clock had passed, then 6. By 7 p.m., a group of roughly 80-100 protesters were still demonstrating on the steps while NYPD officers surrounded the area in small groups of two or three. Occupiers used the people’s mic to discuss outcomes and alternatives. Some felt strongly about staying on the steps, while others cautioned against arrest. “It’s unclear whether sitting on these steps violates any law at all,” one speaker said. Another suggested a march back to Zuccotti, while another speaker suggested the group attempt the sidewalks again.
While the protesters were considering plans of action, officers had assembled into a line in front of the steps, and by 9 p.m. a new development: United States Park Police had arrived. Officers with zip cuffs climbed up the steps and stood behind the group, while protesters, responding to the new tension, broke out in song and dance.
The harmonizing, hand clapping and drum beating went on for more than half an hour, and eventually, neighbors came down from their apartments to complain. One woman in a white coat shouted at protesters from behind a line of NYPD officers, and both sides exchanged taunts and middle fingers. Kyle Rucker, a soft-spoken 20-year-old protester with long dark hair, tried speaking to her with a conciliatory approach, but was quickly rebuffed.
"It was just so disheartening," he said. "While I did manage to have somewhat of a reasonable conversation with her, it was constantly interrupted by interjections from local residents who were almost exclusively upper class. Things like, 'Oh, what do you need—shampoo? Or deodorant or something?' 'Go back to your own neighborhood or get a job!'"
Continued shouting seemed to provide a catalyst for what happened next: shoves were exchanged, and then by 9:45, the first protester was handcuffed and dragged away. I watched three more arrests follow in quick succession—a resident pushed through the police line to strangle a protester, but he was let off while the protester was arrested. The NYPD cuffed a man face down on the ground while a young woman screamed, sobbing. Angel Liz watched his brother Michael Garcia, 20, get pulled from the crowd and into a paddy wagon. “That’s my little brother!” Liz shouted, anguished and hoarse.
By midnight, the arrests had been made, but the violence had dissolved and photographers were leaving to go home. Protesters had stayed on the steps, though a shot at a good night's sleep looked unlikely.