Monday, October 3, 2011

Whose Bridge? Our Bridge!

First of all, I would like to say that I fully support the hundreds of demonstrators who marched onto the  Brooklyn bound roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday to protest police brutality and to support the Occupy Wallstreet movement.

Blocking a roadway is nothing compared to stealing trillions of dollars from the American people, but I don't see one banker or politician in jail.  The laws and the police are obviously not meant to protect the 99%.

I was on the Brooklyn Bridge and, as a result,  have now learned a new concept:  kettling  " a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. It involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit, determined by the police, or are completely prevented from leaving. In some cases protesters are reported to have been denied access to food, water and toilet facilities for a long period. "

I joined the protest against police brutality at Liberty Square around 3:30 PM on October 1st.

There was a large police presence.

We started down Wall Street marching toward the Brooklyn Bridge chanting.  There was still a large police presence with one cop every ten feet.

The crowd was peaceful, upbeat, and very loud.  The chants were the same that I had heard in many other protests that I have attended this year.  A few examples:

We Are the 99%, You Are The 99%
Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like,  This is What Democracy Looks Like
Tax The Rich, Not The Poor
Whose Street?  Our Street!

When you're in the middle of a march, you have a very miopic view of the protest.  You can only see the people immediately in front, back, and to the sides.

As we approached the bridge there was a large contingent of motorcycle cops parked next to the sidewalk.

Then we started onto the bridge.  Police were still to right of us, but didn't speak to us or give us any directions.

More police walked by without saying anything to us.  Some were carrying plastic handcuffs.

I kept following the people in front of me.

Cars merged onto the bridge and we found ourselves occupying the same roadway with them.  They drove by us in single file.  There were more protestors above us.  I realized that we were on the roadway and that those above us were on the pedestrian walkway.  The marchers had divided at some point.

Suddenly we stopped.  People yelled "keep moving!"  Others replied that the police were blocking the way.  Traffic was no longer moving to the right of us.  This was as far as we were going to go.  Many marchers sat down and called for everyone else to sit down.  I wasn't sure what to do.   

Right in back of me was Charles Barron and the Freedom Party.  I looked at them and they seemed to be discussing what to do.  Just beyond them was a line of police blocking us in from behind.  Suddenly the Freedom Party seemed to come to a decision and they moved decisively to the right where the traffic had been moving and started walking back toward Manhattan.  These were longtime activists who had been a part of many civil disobedience actions and who had on other occasions intentionally allowed themselves to be arrested.  They obviously didn't think it was a good idea to stay, and I hadn't come with the intention of getting arrested, so I followed them.

We passed a man who was being arrested.

It seemed as though there needed to be lots and lots of police in order to arrest this one older gentleman.

The police allowed us to walk in single file towards Manhattan, but they were not the ones that opened a pathway through the police blockade--the Freedom Party people did that.  I was not sure how long that very small opening would last.  I saw police rolling out orange netting.  By this time, I was too nervous to take photos, and just wanted to get off the bridge as soon as possible.

There were people in back of me, and I hoped that those who wanted to leave the roadway were being allowed to go, but I couldn't see how many people were behind me. People were above us on the pedestrian sidewalk taking photos and could probably see a lot more of what was going on that I could.

When I exited the bridge I tried to get onto the pedestrian walk and go back to see what was happening on the bridge to other protestors, but the cops blocked the way, and I couldn't get back on.  
 I found myself alone and at a loss for what to do.  After walking around for a while, I decided to get on the train and go home. 

I have thought a lot about what happened on Saturday.  Yes, we were on the roadway and interrupting traffic, but I have been in other demonstrations where the marchers occupied part of the roadway and the traffic flowed past us on the right.  It seems to me, that if the cops wanted us to stay off the roadway, they should have placed police barricades, or at least tape, to direct the marchers onto the pedestrian walkway.  There had been cops all along the way, almost walling in the protestors and making sure they stayed on the sidewalk.  There were twenty motorcycle cops right at the entrance of the roadway, but they weren't blocking it.  A long line of cops hurried past us, but didn't give us directions.  When they stopped us on the bridge and trapped us between two police lines, they did not announce a way for people to leave who were not there to be a part of a civil disobedience action, but who had simply gotten onto the wrong pathway.

The police said they made announcements with bullhorns.  I didn't hear any.  Have you ever tried to hear bullhorns through the chants of thousands of people? 

People are saying that the cops led us into a trap, and I think I agree.  For what reason?  Well, now they have the pictures and fingerprints of about 700 people who go to demonstrations against corporate greed and police brutality.

Do they have the photos and fingerprints of the bankers and politicians who got us into trillions of dollars of debt?

The good news is that, to my knowledge, no one got hurt or killed, and now there is going to be an even bigger demonstration on Wednesday.  All the unions will be there.  Everyone is making sure that they are part of a group.   It's probably not a good idea to be out there alone, but please do come if you are in New York.    I'm sure you can find a group that you will be comfortable marching with.  Check out the Occupy Wallstreet website.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous post..and very insightful.

I was actually on the Manhattan side by City Hall when the protesters were tweeting that they got trapped on the bridge. I was waiting, showing solidarity and recording..

Moriah Untamed said...

Thanks. I've seen from posts on Ed Notes that another protest was going on at City Hall. I don't have a phone with internet--just text messaging--and it didn't even occur to me to use it. Oh well, next time.

Anonymous said...

Actually I am probably the only person in America who does not use internet or tweet on my phone...I just found out from bystanders about the protesters being trapped on the bridge. I took it upon myself to show up and show solidarity.