Almost 200 people were arrested on September 17 during demonstrations in celebration of Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary, including several on a chaotic afternoon march through the winding streets of lower Manhattan. In the morning, direct actions near Wall Street resulted in several arrests, but by noon the mood downtown among protesters 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 surrounding it.
The park was sparsely populated at lunchtime, a few hundred clustered around the west and east ends. “We are here today to say the 99 percent are back,” one speaker said through 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.”
Throughout the day, the park was full of performers: two men in grinning Obama and Romney masks stood, arms around each other’s shoulders, answering questions about the “differences” between their policies. One man carried a large puppet of Bane from the Batman movie 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 strolled the perimeter, sticking it out at cops, who mostly grinned. But they wouldn’t let her into the park. “There are a lot of people here,” the security guard said. “It could poke somebody in the eye by accident.”
Zuccotti was closed off except for guarded 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 (a senior officer in the NYPD) lifted one—“get this shit out of here”—and chucked it toward the sidewalk. Earlier, when I’d arrived, a police officer was eyeing with suspicion a face-masked man entering the park. “You check that retard’s bag?” the cop asked security, who vouched for him.