#OccupyWallStreet day 8 (cont'd)

one of the colorful chrysanthemum planting beds inside Liberty Plaza [Park? Square?], a small American flag peeking out from behind rain tarps on the stone pavement below it

This post is the second of a series of captioned photographs taken last Saturday, beginning in Union Square mid-afternoon and ending that evening back at the #OccupyWallStreet campsite in Liberty Plaza. The first post is here.

[to open this second post completely, click onto the line of text at the bottom]

My experience of what I call the NYPD's September 24th mini-riots began with my arrival at Union Square. Having rushed over from my apartment after seeing the live stream, I got there just as the demonstration had reached the southern end of the park. Hundreds of people who had walked two miles from the Wall Street area were smiling and in good spirits. They were marching west.

since Union Square had been the objective of the march, when it arrived there the enormous crowd had unavoidably begun to bunch up; some were still entering the park from the south, walking across 14th Street, and their numbers had forced others to walk in the street

The police didn't like that. They quickly became violent, ordering the marchers to do what in fact couldn't be done and be where they couldn't be. Without waiting they started assaulting the peaceful people and some bystanders, seemingly at random. Most of the rage and brutality came from the higher-ranking officers (the white shirts); it was clear at the time, and even more clear in the still and video images which record what happened, that many of the beat cops appeared to be shocked at what they were being told to do but perhaps more terrified of the anger of their superior officers.

The NYPD had unrolled their hated contemptible plastic netting and were using it to separate the march into segments, and/or arrest any poor soul unlucky enough to be caught in the traps. People immediately panicked, screamed, and yelled (a totally natural response to such an assault and outrage), and that only further inflamed the cops, and the senior officers in particular.

I was trapped for a moment myself, but in an almost Keystone Cops melodramatic turn I spotted an open parking garage door and, with at least one other panicked refugee from the street roundup, ran into the building. Expecting to be pursued even inside, I started to run up a ramp to another level when I noticed another wide entrance opening to the side street to the west. My companion and I both slipped out of it just seconds before the attendant succeeded in closing the heavy overhead door. He may have been panicked himself by the violence going outside and was apparently notinterested in allowing the garage to become any kind of refuge.

even after the disturbing events on 14th Street, a section of the march proceded peacefully down University Place, where most of its participants tried to remain on a sidewalk much too narrow even for their reduced number; the police however were more interested in unrolling their nets once more (here at 12th Street), and again shutting down the street entirely, than seeing the march continue on its way downtown without incident or major disruptions

the police once again attacked the crowd violently at the intersection of 12th Street and University Place sometimes pulling their victims from the crowd, throwing or flipping them to the ground, binding their arms behind their backs with plastic cuffs, arresting them, and in several instances, macing them; support people, both trained and drafted on the spot, recorded the names of the arrestees when they were able to do so

the NYPD's monstrous system of weirs, birthed during the 2004 Republican National Convention, was as confusing to its potential victims as it was feared: No one knew where it would end up when it was first displayed, and of course no one wanted to end up like a trapped animal

if anyone was blocking pedestrian and motor traffic for other than a few moments, it was the NYPD, which locked down the streets below Union Square for what must have been a couple of hours; as usual, their self-directed assignment was, by their own admission, if not in these exact words, to keep a peaceful assembly of New Yorkers from interfering with the passage of vehicles to which their streets have been sacrificed

I was standing at the intersection of University Place and 12th Street when several of the most brutal police assaults occurred. I was at least a dozen feet from the curb, trying to record the repeated lunges and batterings by what looked to me like blue and white uniforms gone mad, when I was suddenly shoved violently by what must have been a bruiser of a cop, since I'm not small myself: I nearly fell, while impulsively shielding my camera, but a number of others behind me actually hit the ground. It came out of nowhere, so I can't describe our assailant or assailants, but I wouldn't be surprised if, since many of the victims of the attack had been pointing cameras at the appalling scene in front of them, "citizen journalists" were the target.

To better understand what what it was like to be there on Saturday, watch this extraordinary video document, taken by someone positioned at the corner where I was standing.

I did not see the incident in which a senior officer maced a group of young women already enclosed in the net, but I now know that it happened a few yards in front of where I was standing, and I did hear people screaming. What I did spot briefly was the figure of a young man on University Place holding up an American flag to his chest (by the way, I don't remember anyone on the Left carrying or displaying American flags until this movement appeared; I think it says something pretty remarkable about people finally wanting to take back their country). Seconds later I saw one of the white shirts bolt from some 50 feet north of where he was standing, almost fly across the divide which separated them, and attack the kid, throwing or flipping him onto the pavement. I wasn't able to see what happened next, I think because it was at that moment that I was shoved away from the corner and I and my camera briefly took refuge behind a large post box bolted to the pavement.

During the time I was at Union Square, on University Place, 12th Street and later on Fifth Avenue, I never saw less than a hundred people, and often many more, witnessing what the police were doing. If they can still operate like this in front of an enormous number of witnesses, some only passersby, but most equipped with recording devices and many of them pretty sophisticated, what is the NYPD capable of when they think no one is watching? I think we know. This is not even taking into consideration the fact that in the case of the outrages we saw last Saturday, both victims and witnesses were predominantly, but certainly not exclusively, middle class and white.

just after the police had begun loading their human cache into their wagons, this party balloon delivery passed down Fifth Avenue, momentarily offering the possibility of some comic relief, but I did not hear any laughs.

no cars were moving down Fifth Avenue while the police had it shut down, but I think I may have noticed a few delivery guys, and I couldn't possibly have missed this gentleman who seemed oblivious to what was going on all around him as he asked one of the officers for directions

the arresting officers ran out of police vans, so this city bus had to be commandeered to perform the dismal duties; the driver did not look pleased

these two arrestees identified themselves as part of Granny Peace Brigade

I was trying to engage faces inside the big bus, and when I spotted this one I returned my own salute

when things had begun to wind down on Fifth Avenue, I headed downtown for Liberty Plaza and once again I had to pass this lovely monument to corporate-owned police surveillance as I rounded the corner of Church Street

it was now late afternoon, and I was both amazed - and delighted - to find little had changed back at the encampment, in spite of the provocations of the afternoon

t-shirt factory

t-shirt and maker

but there was no way to ignore the threat of imminent eviction, and it looked like it wasn't going to be gentle; the police show of force, especially on the eastern end of the park, where the cops were sometimes lined up shoulder to shoulder and four rows deep, gradually and quietly escalated all evening, reminiscent of the tension in Hitchcock's "The BIrds"; in the end the sweep didn't happen, and I wasn't the only observer who attributed what almost has to be described as the NYPD's backdown to the very public, brutal police actions of the day and the belated appearance of corporate media at Liberty Plaza

in the meantime the NYPD played with us using an arsenal of implied threats, including the very visible presence of the guys from TARU (the NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit), who are basically charged with videotaping demonstrations

at one time during the evening, a sympathetic spectator I ended up talking to said that while he waited to see what was going to happen he had counted 65 police cruisers parked in the blocks immediately surrounding the Plaza (exclusive of the many police vans); that number however was determined before another huge contingent had arrived, and it proceded to double park next to the first; large numbers would occasionally take off and then return a little later (like birds), blip-blip sirens and flashing colored lights going each time; ah, kids

before I finally went home that night (I think it was around 9) I took one more picture of this this very young, silent sentinel facing the huge lineup of mostly-burly cops while holding a handmade sign paraphrasing the words of our third president

A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!

Thomas Jefferson