A (Dramatic) View From the Bridge
Written by Bwog Staff
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.