The NYPD won a tactical victory on Saturday, penning in and arresting more than 700 protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement as they tried to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. But for the protesters, many of whom have inveighed against mainstream media outlets for paying insufficient attention to their cause, the attention generated by the arrests may well have been worth it.
Police said the protesters chose to march in the traffic lanes of the bridge, and thus knew they were breaking the law. Some protesters said they felt police had lured them into violating the law that would be used to arrest them. From The Times:
But many protesters said they believed the police had tricked them, allowing them onto the bridge, and even escorting them partway across, only to trap them in orange netting after hundreds had entered.
“The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who marched but was not arrested.
Protesters were freed beginning around 1 a.m. Sunday, The Times said.
The New York Observer is maintaing its online primer on the history and purpose of the protests, with daily updates that show the suport for the marchers growing. (Going public with support Saturday were writer Jonathan Franzen and actor Mark Ruffalo.)
The Times described the moment that some marchers, who had stayed on the sidewalk since leaving Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, moved into the traffic lanes.
Where the entrance to the bridge narrowed their path, some marchers, including organizers, stuck to the generally agreed-upon route and headed up onto the wooden walkway that runs between and about 15 feet above the bridge’s traffic lanes.
But about 20 others headed for the Brooklyn-bound roadway, said Christopher T. Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who accompanied the march. Some of them chanted “take the bridge.” They were met by a handful of high-level police supervisors, who blocked the way and announced repeatedly through bullhorns that the marchers were blocking the roadway and that if they continued to do so, they would be subject to arrest.
There were no physical barriers, though, and at one point, the marchers began walking up the roadway with the police commanders in front of them – seeming, from a distance, as if they were leading the way. The Chief of Department Joseph J. Esposito, and a horde of other white-shirted commanders, were among them.
Midway across, the same white-shirted commanders came to a stop and arrested the group, triggering chants of "Let us go."
The protesters were released early Sunday, and the ordeal had done little to diminish their resolve.
The scene outside the Midtown South Precinct on West 35th Street around 2 a.m. was far more jovial. Only about 15 of the rumored 57 people had been released, but about a dozen waiting supporters danced jigs in the street to keep warm. They snacked on pizza. One even drank Coors Light beer, stashing the empty bottles under a parked police van. When a fresh protester was released, he or she ran through a gantlet formed by the waiting group, like a football player bursting onto the field during the Super Bowl. “This is so much better than prison!” one cheered.
“It’s cold,” said Rebecca Solow, 27, rubbing her arms as she waited on the sidewalk, “but every time one is released, it warms you up.”
The Times' Ginia Bellafante, who angered some protesters by skewering their lack of concrete political goals, is back with a new skewer today. This one is for the New York Police Department, which has only helped protesters by overreacting to any demonstrations in city streets, she writes. "Like a toddler who throws his food on the floor, gets in trouble and then just does it again," Bellafante said, "the Police Department overreacts to peaceful protests, invites ire and then reprises its actions the next time it encounters agitation."