Somewhat contrary to our initial report on this, while some just stayed through the weekend of the 17th, others have tried to make the “Occupy Wall Street” protests into an actual occupation. The protesters have camped out in what they have called Liberty Plaza aka Zuccotti Park (which apparently was at one point called Liberty Plaza Park) indefinitely.
(Protesters in Zuccotti Park, September 2011)
The occupation started on Saturday, September 17th and as the days went by the protests peacefully continued. The protesters slept in the park and people from around the world ordered them pizza. One enterprising (if that’s not a dirty word) local pizzeria, Liberatos, even created a special pizza for the occasion The OccuPie: “a line of pepperoni across the middle, in the shape of a slash, intended to represent protester anger.” Tastes like freedom (and pizza)!
So it went. From the Saturday the 17th up until last Saturday the 24th. The protesters camped out, ate their pizza, and spent the day highlighting the issues they cared about – which at one point was the execution of Troy Davis. No property destruction or violence was reported. No harm, no foul right?
(Protester and dog catch a nap, “Stay Clear of the Plants” sign in background)
Well it seems after a week of “occupation” the New York Police Department or rather their superiors, had had enough. Starting Saturday the 24th, a severe crackdown on the protests started.
What was once a rather calm scene turned increasingly chaotic as police used force to breakup protests, including the deployment of non-lethal chemical weapons.
(Peaceful Protesters Sprayed With Irritant By Police)
(more after the jump)
Then came the mass arrests. From the Associated Press:
About 80 people were arrested Saturday as demonstrators who were camped out near the New York Stock Exchange marched through lower Manhattan, police said…
At Manhattan’s Union Square, police tried to corral the demonstrators using orange plastic netting. Some of the arrests were filmed and activists posted the videos online. One video appears to show officers using pepper spray on women who already were cordoned off; another shows officers handcuffing a man after pulling him up off the ground, blood trickling down his face.
Usually these tactics, while legal, are reserved for violent protests. All indications are no violence or property destruction was occurring when the crackdown started.
In fact, the police did not even offer that justification to AP:
Police say the arrests were mostly for blocking traffic. Charges include disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Blocking traffic? Well we can’t have congestion in New York City, drivers would be unable to cope!
Obviously this is difficult to judge from afar and while the video(s) seems damning we don’t know what happened before or after the cameras rolled. But it is hard to imagine that a protest that went all week without any major incidents of property destruction or violence, and was organized around being non-violent suddenly shifted so dramatically.
A more plausible explanation is that authorities in New York City and elsewhere were hoping the protests would burn out quickly on the weekend of the 17th, and when they did not, ordered the NYPD to crackdown; hoping to scare off the protesters with fear of arrest or other uses of force.
The question that remains is… did it work? Or will the occupation continue?