By Frank Bixler
On Saturday September 24th, 2011, The Occupy Wall Street protest movement, which has been staging protests in Lower Manhattan against Wall Street, corporate greed, and corrupt United States politics for the past week, attempted to occupy Wall Street in lower Manhattan in NYC. The protesters employed methods of peaceful protest that had also been used in recent months to overthrow dictatorships in the Middle East. However, the largely peaceful protest took an ugly turn Saturday when New York City police officers attempted to block the protestors from reaching Wall Street with herding nets, Mace, tasers and random arrests.
Saturday’s protest was relatively small compared to the 1,500 people protesting earlier this week with approximately 200 protesters involved. Police responded to this small threat by deploying approximately 100 officers who cordoned off 5th Avenue with metal barriers to protect Wall Street. Earlier in the week protestor’s had offered police officers cups of coffee in the morning and water later in the day as a sign that they bore no ill will against what they called “the blue collar police force.” However, the police consistently refused the offers and on Saturday responded by arresting over 80 of the 200 protestors, some of which were arrested for taking photos of the arrests. Legal representatives of the movement attempted to contact the arrested protestors but were rebuked by the authorities who cited that it was “an emergency situation.”
Video footage was quick to emerge on the internet of the police corralling female protestors and dousing them with mace after no apparent provocation. Another video emerged showing white uniformed police running into the crowd, tackling and then arresting individuals at random, again without apparent provocation. These videos have been attracting widespread criticism of how the New York City Police are handling the protests. Former director of Policy Planning at the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, was quoted Tweeting, “Not the image or reality the US wants, at home or abroad,” followed by a link to a picture of a police officer kneeling on a protester pinned to the ground.
American media outlets have been criticized for their lack of coverage of these protests over the last week. And indeed, even after the police backlash on Saturday, media coverage of events remains weak. The protest was made up of mostly college students holding up placards reading, “Tax the rich! Jobs and Justice! Not racism and War! We Want Money for Healthcare not Corporate Welfare.” The protestors claim that these statements represent the 99% of Americans who are being oppressed by the 1% of wealthy individuals in this country. However, the lack of a clear mission statement hampered the protestors’ ability to draw in more participants and thus more media attention.
In response to police action on the 24th, the Occupy Wall Street Movement posted on their website (www.occupywallst.org) a demand that New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly resign, that mayor Bloomberg addresses the group’s general assembly apologizing for police action on Saturday, and that no blue collar police be charged for their behavior in subduing the protests since they were obeying orders from their supervisors. The movement also posted this message to New York’s blue collar police force: “A message to blue-collar police: Do not do what you are told. We are peaceful and you know this. We offer you coffee in the morning and water in the day. You always refuse and we know that’s because they told you to. Speak of the crimes of your supervisors. We will help you. We are expressing the same frustration that you feel. You are the 99 percent. Join us. Join our conversation.”
Even though unwarranted action was taken against them, the Movement vows to continue working towards their goals and continue with peaceful protests in the future.