Al Jazeera reports: Maybe it was the unrestrained swinging of batons or the indiscriminate use of pepper-spray on a crowd of peaceful people. Maybe it was the scores of police officers doing their best to intimidate the public. Maybe it was the homemade drum accompaniment. Whatever it was, one chant in particular – directed at the NYPD – seemed to resonate with the hundreds upon hundreds of protesters gathered at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway last night, “Who the f**k are you protecting?”
It was a reasonable enough question.
The NYPD claims to have arrested 23 people – most on charges of disorderly conduct – after thousands of demonstrators with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement gathered at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street on Wednesday night, October 5. The protesters intended to march down the symbolic thoroughfare, which has been blocked off by barricades and a continual police presence since the Occupy Wall Street campaign began on September 17.
Protester Monica Lopez, a 25-year-old journalist from Spain, described what she witnessed: “We were in the march and we decided to come to Wall Street and then we got here and they absolutely blocked everything, both parts, the sidewalk and the street.” Lopez added, “We didn’t know what to do.”
With as many 2,000 protesters packed along both sides of Broadway at approximately 7:30PM, and a growing concentration of people gathering at the entrance to Wall Street, the demonstrators took to the so-called Peoples’ Mic; a call-and-response system used to communicate in the absence of amplification equipment. A call was issued for an on-the-spot consensus meeting. A contingent of the protesters ultimately decided to attempt a push through the police barricades and the scores of officers standing behind them. A young man hanging from scaffolding above the sidewalk announced the decision, warning those who did not wish to be arrested to step back and calling on those willing to take the risk to step forward.
The protesters made the push and police responded with immediate force. Within moments a cloud of pepper-spray appeared above the front of the crowd, as police indiscriminately sprayed into the faces of protesters. A police barricade was knocked down from the officers’ side and members of the NYPD surged into the crowd. Protesters chanted in volume, “We are the 99 per cent!” What followed, from eyewitness accounts, was a brutal beating of demonstrators on the part of NYPD officers, assaults on journalists and several heavy-handed arrests.
Officers mandated to protect the public, but well-trained in ways to hurt people, displayed little restraint as they beat, dragged and arrested dissenting citizens. Lopez says some protesters attempted to peacefully sit down but were targeted with violence regardless. She claims injured demonstrators were pulled beyond the barricade to prevent them from being helped by the crowd.