A (Dramatic) View From the Bridge

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The Occupy Wall Street protests continue on without an end in sight, and things heated up today around the Brooklyn Bridge. The protesters marched down the vehicle portion of the bridge, completely stopping traffic in the lanes. The NYPD responded quickly, blockading both sides and making nearly 400700 arrests, out of a total 1500 marchers. Paddy wagons as well as MTA buses were used to ferry away the arrestees, and those arrested include a New York Times contributing reporter and, according to one tipster, another Columbia student. At one point, almost 19,000 people were viewing the action via this streaming video.

If you still don’t really know what this is, Slate has put together a handy video recapping the events thus far:

Update, 3:00 pm: We just spoke to a Columbia student who was at the protest on the Brooklyn Bridge and nearly arrested yesterday. Her friend, also a Columbia student, was arrested yesterday and released early this morning. We’ve edited her account for clarity and to maintain her anonymity, and it appears below.

My friend and I arrived at the march on Wall Street around 3 pm. We originally entered the pedestrian side of the Brooklyn Bridge. As such, we saw that the first people leading the protest were in fact the police. They were the ones leading the protestors onto the bridge. By this point the car lanes were still running. Then as more of the march entered the bridge, cops started setting up cones to divide the car lanes from the pedestrians. Since there was more space for people on the car lanes (once again, the cops had divided the cars from the people themselves by putting orange cones along the lines) the protestors started calling out to those on the pedestrian side to hop over and walk with them. Many people were crossing over, so we joined too. It was loud and crazy.

I don’t know when it happened, but all of sudden I saw there were no more cars with us on the bridge. People kept on marching. When we got to the middle of the bridge, we were all suddenly stopped. We were told that the police were preventing us from going to Brooklyn, but to stay put. The protestors kept on saying to remain calm and to not push. They would tell us to sit down so no one could get trampled if people started to push. But we felt more and more crammed. By this point, people had already tried to start going back to Manhattan (though some people in the crowd were preventing them from doing so worried it would cause a stampede and lead to trampling—we were that crammed!)

Other people had begun to climb the rails from the car lane side of the bridge to up to the pedestrian side, but we thought that would be too dangerous, and we were already too far away from the pedestrian side. Then people began to yell, “Let us go,” but there was no movement. I would say we were held in that situation for about an hour or more. Protestors were trying to communicate to the police, the police were not saying anything, and we were just being left on the bridge.

Then we began to hear that they were conducting arrests, but we thought it was ridiculous that they could arrest the entire march. (I later found out on the subway ride back that the police had divided the protestors already on the bridge from those still trying to get on the bridge). So we thought they might arrest the most important people at the front and then let the others go. Then people started to say they saw giant buses that said “Police” arriving on either side of the bridge. The police kept on corraling us, while people chanted, “We cannot breathe” and “We are suffocating.”

When the buses arrived, some people began voluntarily moving toward them, to let others have breathing space. Throughout this whole time we, were could not believe the police were doing this to us—there were 40-year-old dads, moms, teachers, and even kids that were only 7 and 10 years old in that crowd. My friend and I kept on trying to go back towards Manhattan because we had just heard there were arrests on the Brooklyn side, and still had not realized that there were also police buses on the Manhattan side. When we got to the Manhattan entrance, we saw that the police were dividing the protestors by gender and arresting about five at a time. They put plastic cuffs on each protester and sent them to the buses. Slowly but surely, they were arresting everybody.

While waiting to be arrested, I asked the office what would happen and he said that I would probably be able to go, and my friend would most likely just get be processed and charged with a “blocking traffic” citation. He even joked that the luckiest people were the ones that had been arrested first, since they were probably all out by now. My friend was arrested, and I just waited on the bridge. Eventually they told me and another girl who claimed she had gotten trapped in the protest to just go home, so I did.

I met another protestor on the subway back to Columbia, and he said that he had been one of the people in the back of the march. He explained that the police had been allowing people on the bridge, until they stopped us half-way through. Then they divided the group already on the bridge from the group still in Manhattan, leaving about one foot of space between the two groups. The people still in Manhattan were told they could not get on the bridge. Then corralled those of us on the bridge (about 400 people) and brought buses on both sides to take out the arrested.

I saw no coverage from big media, though everyone was of course taking pictures and videos. And just for the record, I never heard anyone from the police warn us that we would be arrested if we continued in the car lane section of the bridge. Never.

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  1. Anonymous

    so 400 people arrested and essentially zero major media coverage. lol.

    • Anonymous  

      umm...the New York Times?

      • The New York Times

        even had quotes from Columbia Students that were arrested on the bridge that some sources now say is upwards of 800 people, most of whom again were trying NOT to break the law and were caught up in the confusion.

    • CC '12  

      I don't 'agree' with the protestors insofar as they have yet to articulate any stance I could agree with. I can see where their discontent is coming from, I'm just saddened that there hasn't been a way to channel that outrage constructively.

      It is downright sickening that NYPD chose to arrest close to 400 people for being on the bridge. Yes, they weren't supposed to be on the bridge, arresting them was not the most effective way to clear them. How can anyone say this wasn't premeditated when they had 20+ paddywagons and buses at the ready to cart the protestors away? NYPD wants to get these people off the streets so they can't be seen or heard anymore, they want them to disappear. And that is profoundly frightening for our right as citizens to assemble peacefully and voice our opinions. Someone needs to hold our public servants to their responsibilities. Who are they protecting and serving?

      • Read the law

        You break the law, you get arrested. Why is this surprising? New York Penal Law 240.20 (5) states that if one blocks vehicular or pedestrian traffic you are guilty of disorderly conduct, and can be arrested.

        • NYPD

          We allowed protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. Raymond Kelly planned the mass arrest after Bloomberg lambasted him in private for not 'taking care of the protesters.' The chain of command says we do everything in our power to get rid of the Occupy Wall Street group, so what do you expect? The only sacrosanct right to protect for a police is doing the job, all the rest is up to the powers that be. Sorry kids, don't take it personal if I'm too rough with you and then charge you with assault, that's just how the game goes.

  2. Anonymous  

    wait so why are they protesting

    • ...  

      they're protesting the off-center positioning of columbis college within the faculty of arts and sciences.

    • Anonymous  

      Against economic inequality, corporate personhood, campaign finance, lack of public health care, threats to social security and welfare, corporate abuse of access to lobbyists, systemic economic suppression of brown people, systemic economic suppression of gay people, systemic economic suppression of women, racial profiling in the criminal justice system, the fallibility of the two party system, the failures of a republican democracy, the failures of capitalism to provide essential necessities for survival, the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, the food industrial complex

      for direct democracy, for the peaceful conduct of the U.S. hegemon that so frequently terrorizes, a justice system that is blind to race and economic position

      • Yeah man!

        How can they possibly fail by throwing in all angles of protest instead of clearly articulating a causal chain or list of goals? LET'S PROTEST EVERYTHING WOOO

        • Anonymous  

          You don't always need a set specific list of demands to effect change. We live in a complex system whose character at any given time is representative of the current values of society. If you call attention to the negative ramifications of greed, ignoring the disparity between the rich and the poor, etc. loud enough, then the conglomerate is likely to improve as values change. Although having specific demands is of course useful if you can convince the people with a higher degree of influence to follow them

        • Against it!

          A: Yo Bro, get go protest against it!
          B: Yeah, I am totally against that as well!
          A: Let's play drums and camp in public parks until they change it
          B: Cool bro, totally will work. Wait, what are we protesting against?
          A: Dude, if you have to ask, you just don't get it!

      • Anonymous  

        against economic inequality? yes, protesting is the way to fix that, not working? they're protesting against people who are probably currently working (on a sunday) because they make too much money and have good jobs? give me a break

  3. Anonymous  

    They're protesting corporate greed and the fact that nobody really was prosecuted or held accountable for the 2008 financial crisis. That the government has bailed out banks but sold out the people.

    Also check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqWEPwuIYtA&feature=player_embedded

    • Anonymous  

      oh okay i see

      uh good luck everyone

      i guess

    • ...  

      why would anyone at columbia care? it seems that everyone here is either trastafari or gunning for wall street/consulting/business...

      these people are protesting that from which columbia's dna is constructed.

      sure, their protest is kind of a joke. but you know, in light of of what i've seen at uncle lee's finishing school, i can't say the other side is any less ridiculous.

    • Anonymous  

      prosecute who for what? the executives/banks that actually violated laws were fined heavily...

      would it make sense to prosecute the homeowner who's mortgage is underwater because he took out one that he could not handle? would it make sense to prosecute the bank who didn't double check your claims to a 200k a year steady job when you were on food stamps? a lot of different factors contributed to the financial crisis, the majority of which were completely lawful

  4. Anonymous

    Why New York is the center of evil Wall Street?
    Why are we building up a society based on money. Is this the so called American Dream?
    We have so much deficit and the world should recognize that our model is a failure. Stop learning from us.

  5. Anonymous  

    This is entirely insane. The cops look very stupid on this one. Two weeks in a row, blatant suppression of the right to protest. Seems a bit fascistic.

    • WEll

      I'm not usually one to defend the police but here I can see their point: you can't block the TRAFFIC LANE of the Brooklyn bridge and NOT expect them to do something. That's extremely dangerous for everyone and also going to create havoc with traffic coming in and out of the city. Also bridges are serious terror targets and that number of people wandering around without order or permits creates a nightmare in terms of making sure everyone is safe. People should be allowed to protest but there is a time and a place and they shouldn't unnecessarily create safety problems.

      • Anonymous

        No, you are wrong. Did you read the article? NYPD were at the entrance the the bridge and they allowed hundreds of protestors to flow through without stopping them. Then, once they allowed thousands of protestors on the bridge, they decided to arrest as many as possible.

    • Anonymous  

      your right to protest is respected. get a permit. if you don't have one and you protest, that is a violation of the law.

  6. screw these

    liberals i hope they are all arrested.

  7. Anonymous  

    IMO the protest is against the gridlock related to fixing anything in this country. There are more than enough left-right points of agreement (like bailouts, misprioritized spending mostly related to big Wall Street corporations) that all of us should pitch in a day or two on the streets with them.

    CAPTCHA: The agotator

  8. South Park

    Gotta be against it. Against what? Well, it of course!...

    Man 1: [wearing a guitar over his back] You're playing into the corporate game! See, the corporations are trying to turn you into little Eichmanns so that they can make money. [the other man is busily eating chips]
    Stan: Who are the corporations?
    Woman 2: [a blonde with a psychedelic fish on her shirt] The corporations run the entire world. And now they fooled you into working for them.
    Stan: Are you serious?? We never heard that.
    Driver: We just spent our first semester at college. Our professors opened our eyes. The government is using its corporate ties to make you sell magazines so they can get rich.

  9. Is this your roar lion roar?  

    Got a great kick out of all the comments on here this morning. This is why Harvard didn't accept you.

    --James Harvard Dean

  10. Anonymous  

    bailout is a misnomer used by the liberal media to cloud what TARP really was: a loan. and the government, taxpayers have gotten their money back + interest

    it wasn't like a trillion dollars was given to the banks with no strings attached. these unemployed protesters are actually getting a "bailout". it's not like they have to payback their unemployment benefits...

  11. Middle income American  

    This whole thing is dumb as hell, its just a bunch of hippies trying to get free money and healthcare, its one thing for the people that actually need it but with the whole uproar against drug testing welfare recipients I am not giving hippies the benefit of the doubt this time....especially if they are trying to prevent people from working by standing around....

  12. van owen

    Fucking hippies.

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