Politics: October 2011 Archives

the head of the march as it arrived at 34th Street, confronted by the NYPD

The NYPD: Incompetent, malicious, following orders, or all three?

We had to go to Times Square yesterday afternoon to be a part of Occupy Wall Street's assembly on the October 15th "Global Day Of Action", but we were unable to start all the way downtown as many others did. As it happened, we arrived at 6th Avenue and 34th Street a few minutes before the vanguard of what I believe was the main march coming from the south.

We joined the throng, and along with thousands of other people of all ages and stations, snaked our way along some narrow, treacherous sidewalks, ending up on the west side of the block of Broadway between 42nd and 43rd Streets. The passage was impeded, first by the metal police barriers whose feet splayed into the path of feet temporarily neglected by eyes being used to avoid bumping into people, but also by sidewalk furniture of every kind, construction canopies, concrete repair areas, and hundreds of surprised tourists and other pedestrians.

In spite of our numbers we were forcibly squeezed into spaces designated by metal barriers and lines of moving police scooters on either side of the vehicle roadway. This was the order of our Constitutionally-renegade constabulary, ever heedless of the rights of assembly and speech, yet pathologically-obsessed with defending the rights of New York's privileged motor vehicle traffic.

I've been in both "permitted" and "un-permitted" marches in New York City for 25 years, and I don't recall any where we were forced to stay on the sidewalk once large numbers had been massed.

I find it embarrassing both as an American, a New Yorker, and a rights activist to report that the march was confined to sidewalks for its entire length, but that was only the beginning: The confinement continued even after the marchers had reached (or tried to reach) their destination, Times Square itself. Everyone was pressed behind barricades or forced into pens set up at the discretion of units of the NYPD - to protect themselves from us, but also to demonstrate that they could control our ability to assemble in civil society as effectively as they could control our movements.

Unfortunately the NYPD's jealous possession of another instrument for controlling both speech and assembly has escaped the notice of too many of those whose rights they routinely trample. The human microphone is a wondrous thing, but it had to be invented because in New York the police, in addition to their monopoly of the freedom of assembly, have a monopoly on the freedom of expression represented by the electric megaphone and the microphone.

Even while walking up Broadway we were in touch through Twitter with some of those who were closer to Times Square itself and what we were hearing didn't reassure us that we would be safe from police incompetence, rage, or their moves to deliberately provoke violence. That, plus the police brutality we've seen directed toward Occupy Wall Street over the past month, kept up from trying to move further north, or in fact remain standing in any place where we might not be able to easily escape.

These images are therefore pretty unexciting, but they may provide a little context for what happened on and around 46th Street yesterday evening.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I could join a protest and not fear I would be arrested, unless it was my intention to be arrested. In those days I could and would encourage anyone I knew to do the same, also with the totally reasonable expectation they would not be arrested - and certainly not be badly beaten. But today's NYPD is a very vicious agency. It's also a loose cannon; there is absolutely no way to predict what the cops will do at any moment.

We've also seen that at every level they are safe from being held accountable, even for the most horrible offense.

But with particular respect to what they are doing vis--vis this movement, we have to remember that cops take orders; More than ever before we should be asking who's giving those orders.





early review of Occupy Wall Street: Times Square, spotted within its cast of thousands

Today in Times Square, elsewhere in the city, and all around the world, it became clear that the popular protest phenomenon known as Occupy Wall Street was no longer being ignored.

This is true even if our absurd-Right's in-house propaganda machine, Fox-excuse-the-expression-News, still insists on pretending it doesn't see anything.

from the Arizona side of the 21-feet-high wall on the Mexico-U.S. border

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

[the first lines of Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" from 1915]

That something is apparently not us: The message of this wall is abominable, and yet we concur with it in our affirmation or merely our daily silence.

The image is from an illustrated article in today's New York TImes, "At the Border, on the Night Watch", describing our iniquitous operations "securing" our southern perimeter from the people we conquered to obtain it.

[image by Joshua Lott for The New York Times]


The sign was taped onto a post at the edge of the throng which filled the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Liberty Park this evening.

What a difference a thousand days can make.


Supporters of Occupy Wall Street [OWS; Twitter #OWS], including unions, community groups and students, arranged for a "permitted" assembly in Foley Square on Wednesday to be followed by a "permitted" march to Liberty Park. Meanwhile at Liberty Park itself the people who were a part of or identified with Occupy Wall Street were to assemble around 3 o'clock in the no-longer-quite-so-small village which has sprung up in the former Zuccotti Park and then march north to join them at 4:30 in the huge courthouse square. That march did not have a permit, and no application had been made for one. In the absurd, antidemocratic mind of the New York City Police Department it was "illegal" to go uptown, but "legal" to come back, or so it would have seemed until that evening.

The crowd was extraordinarily diverse, high-spirited, and intense in its focus on resistance to the preposterous structure of greed and corruption which has wiped out the U.S. economy and any remaining vestiges of responsible government - at any level. The day proceded without incident until some 15,000 protesters arrived in the Wall Street area. Liberty Park and the surrounding streets were unable to contain the numbers, and when some of the marchers attempted to walk east from Broadway down Wall Street itself, a police brawl erupted, with white-shirted officers once again leading the assault with batons and mace. This time at least one NYPD "suit" also got into the act.

There were 28 arrests, and I think it's safe to say that none of them were bankers or politicians.

Since I had left the site by 7pm, this photo essay is able to document only the happier part of the day, before the NYPD's fetish for protecting the streets of New York from its people had shown its ugliest side.

For the record however, Wall Street and the blocks on Broad Street near the Stock Exchange have been closed to vehicle traffic since 9/11, and, subject to the whim of the NYPD, suspicious pedestrians as well. Stagy vehicle barriers ensure the safety of the bankers and brokers from truck bombs, but to combat the threat to the monied sort posed by the protesters of Occupy Wall Street the police had to unsheathe batons and mace.

Don't the cops know that getting to Wall Street is an American dream?

The first two pictures in the series below show the march the NYPD had not permitted going up Broadway while confined to a sidewalk whose width, already reduced by "street furniture", was further diminished by layers of redundant steel police barricades whose footings presented a tripping hazard to people crushed together and unable to see where they were walking. The portion of the road normally reserved for several lanes of vehicles had been narrowed to one, the remainder taken over by stationary police cars and vans, police scooters, and police pedestrians, all elements as unnecessary as they were expensive.

The other images, which until near the end are of the Occupy Wall Street marchers, speak for themselves.








This post presents a very brief tour of the #OccupyWallStreet compound in Liberty Park, in the form of a photo essay, on day 18 of the occupation.


media center

celebrity care

first aid station



performance space

reading room


Tuesday, October 4, 2011, inside Liberty Plaza, New York City

ADDENDUM: The list of participants in the march has grown. This is what was being reported by #OccupyWallStreet as of 8:30 this evening:

United NY
Strong Economy for All Coalition
Working Families Party,
TWU Local 100
SEIU 1199
CWA 1109
Communications Workers of America
CWA Local 1180
United Auto Workers
United Federation of Teachers
Professional Staff Congress - CUNY
National Nurses United
Writers Guild East
Community Voices Heard
Alliance for Quality Education
New York Communities for Change
Coalition for the Homeless
Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP)
The Job Party
NYC Coalition for Educational Justice
The Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center
The New Deal for New York Campaign
National People's Action
Human Services Council
Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State
Citizen Action of NY
Common Cause NY
New Bottom Line
Tenants & Neighbors
Democracy for NYC
Resource Generation
Tenants PAC
Teachers Unite

Tomorrow is big.

#OccupyWallStreet is likely to move into another dimension with the "Community/Labor March to Wall St against Corporate Greed and the Big Banks". A number of unions and community groups will be a part of the march of the 99 percent Thursday afternoon. These include the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU; 1199 SEIU Workers United; and Transport Workers Union Local 100; PSC-CUNY United NY; the Strong Economy for All Coalition; the Working Families Party; Vocal-NY; New York Communities for Change; Community Voices Heard; Alliance for Quality Education; [list in formation].

It has been announced that this march is "permitted", meaning that the permits which the NYPD requires for any public assembly have actually been obtained, having been sought in deference to the preferences of some of the groups participating.

It was to start at City Hall (250 Broadway), but the assembly point has been changed, presumably in response to the anticipated numbers. Now it will assemble near or just east of Foley Square (map). The marchers will go down Park Row past police headquarters and City Hall to Broadway, where they will turn left and continue five blocks to Liberty Park (until recently called Zuccotti Park).

Any doubts about the importance being vested in this event are likely to be dismissed after even a quick look at the Google results for "Community/Labor March to Wall St against Corporate Greed and the Big Banks".

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from October 2011.

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