Protests meant to mark the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street have thrust the movement back into the spotlight, mostly due to one particularly violent and ugly confrontation.
Around 73 protesters were arrested on St. Patrick's Day night after an attempt to re-occupy Zuccotti Park by setting up tents was met with stiff resistance from the NYPD. One arrest drew particular outrage from protesters and internet observers, when 23-year-old Cecily McMillan reportedly had a rib broken by arresting officers, who then stood by as she suffered a seizure while in handcuffs. (That's McMillan in green in the rather dramatic Reuters photograph from this earlier post.) She was taken to both New York Downtown Hospital for medical treatment, then to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation before being released into police custody. Another video of a seperate incident shows police breaking a glass door by slamming a protester into it.
Despite the injuries she suffered, McMillan's own conduct is now being called into question by police. One of the eyewitness videos documenting her arrest shows what appears to be McMillan intentionally elbowing her arresting officer in the face, before she was violently taken down. (She was later charged will assaulting an officer.) McMillan, an avowed socialist who was mentioned in Rolling Stone last year, has been arrested before at Occupy protests making her the perfect foil for NYPD backers who think these kids are just asking for trouble.
Despite the massive protests, the huge police response, and dozens of demonstrators still in jail, both the New York tabloids on Monday morning chose to focus on the investigation of an anonymous Twitter user who posted a comment on Ustream about killing cops. Not to excuse what is almost certainly an idle threat from a dumb kid in Florida, but that hardly seems like the most important moment to come out of the weekend.
But no matter which side of the conflict you are on, there's no denying that Occupy Wall Street is relevant again, after several dormant winter weeks. Spring is returning to the city and the chance for more marches, more camping, and more showdowns will only be on the rise as days get longer. As one activist put it, "Mayor Bloomberg did us a big help last night," both in terms of fundraising and awareness. While Saturday's demonstration was smaller than some of the bigger moments from last fall, the heavy-handed response could re-invigorate the protests and will almost certainly make the next march that much stronger.