The March On Wall Street

10/12/2011 4:00 AM |

More than twenty protestors were arrested and
more pepper sprayed and beaten by police at two
impromptu marches last Wednesday in lower
Manhattan. The two marches, part of Occupy Wall
, followed the movement’s largest demonstration
to date—a planned, permit-sanctioned march
from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park, the movement’s
base, that drew an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people
on a windy but unseasonably warm day. Occupiers
marched into Foley from the south, reinforcing
ralliers, while college students, who had walked out
of class, came in from the north.

At Foley, nurses, transit workers and teachers
mingled with members of DC37, SEIU, and AFSCME.
Amy Goodman was there, along with Vito Lopez,
Brad Lander, Scott Stringer, and many other
local politicians; the movement has expanded beyond
the young people who have been at Zuccotti
since September 17.

After moving through mazes of barriers (and dismantling
some), marchers made their way south
down city sidewalks. The number of helicopters
overhead swelled from one to four. In front of
St. Paul’s, two men extended open bags of cough
drops. As the marchers reached Zuccotti, a raucous
chant of “All Day! All Week! Occupy Wall Street!”
started. Inside the park, swelling with new arrivals,
a carnival broke out. The air was dense
with incense and dance rhythms; people gyrated,
jammed, climbed trees and burst into spontaneous
applause. Drum-circle dance parties occupied the
park’s western corners; farther off, two guys held
up a six-foot screen, onto which were projected
messages of support from around the world. I saw
a family keeping a juvenile squirrel as a pet, tethered
to a twine leash. After more than an hour,
people were still marching in.

Thousands from this amped-up crowd decided
spontaneously to march on Wall Street itself, two
blocks south, just before 7:30pm. They occupied
the sidewalks on both sides of Broadway, separated
by rows of police off the curbs, keeping the street
clear. I was on the west side of Broadway; shit went
down on the east, but I was unable to see clearly
across. Video posted later on Occupy Wall Street’s
website shows police (including white-shirted
higher-ups) beating protestors with batons and
using pepper spray. The Times reported 23 people
were arrested. At least two journalists were among
those brutalized.

A truck with more barricades drove down Broadway
to great jeers, as did later an NYPD bus used to
transport detainees. Protestors urged the police to
change sides. “Police, join us!” they chanted. “They
want your pensions, too!” Orange netting was deployed
to the west side of the street, to kettle protestors
for mass arrest. At that point, there was a
mass departure. “We won!” a woman on the street
shouted. “We have the police surrounded! If you
look at it that way.”

Back at Zuccotti, just before 10pm, a second
march took off in solidarity with the first. A few
hundred people, energized by a sustained round
of “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!,” headed
north, then east. Commotion broke out in front of
Pita Express on Ann Street, opposite the march. As
marchers moved to cross, officers pulled their batons
and ordered them back on the sidewalk. One
man was arrested amid the commotion and led
down an alleyway blocked off by police as protestors
shouted, “Peace!”

Police ordered marchers to stay on the sidewalk
throughout, at one point shoving several young
men toward it. (Large parts of many sidewalks
were blocked by heaps of trash bags.) A gang of
cops on motorcycles showed up to chaperone the
march on its winding trip through lower Manhattan—
protestors, though, fearing traps, turned
away from police at every intersection. Eventually,
police directed traffic by blocking sidewalks in advance
in all directions but one.

Many cops stood along the route, now with many
sets of plastic-tie handcuffs. After a bad Dunkin
Donuts joke from the crowd, one marcher started
to chant, “We’re against Wall Street! Not against
the police!” which was taken up spiritedly. Earlier,
protestors heartily chanted “From New York
to Greece, Fuck the Police!” Finally, the crowd returned
to the park to loud applause.

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