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Sights and Sounds of New York
Published on October 2, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my column this week at the DG, I write about my recent trip to New York City, and visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Park 51 - the Islamic community center better known as the "ground zero mosque" - as well as my observations of the massive police presence around the Wall Street protestors.

The Wall Street protest has picked up steam since last weekend, and my basic feeling is that the New York City police department's heavy-handed approach to it has only fueled the movement. When I first saw the protestors, I remarked on how easy it was to walk past them without even noticing them, but when you flood the area with over 100 police officers, it's hard not to pay attention. Now I learn that about 700 people were arrested on Saturday while trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge; the protestors are claiming that the police tricked them, and trapped them on the bridge. Again, I feel like all the police had to do was let the protestors cross the bridge, and this would be a non-story. Instead they arrested hundreds of people, and now it's all over the news. Which leads me to ask: Are the police secretly trying to help the protestors? Because this is a movement that is media savvy, and wants the attention.

Over on Firedoglake, a protestor provides a first-hand account of what happened on the bridge.

Here's an excerpt:

Soon the crowd cross the street towards the Brooklyn Bridge. As they crossed, people began to become confused about whether to walk on the pedestrian walk-way or the street. The group split into two, and kept marching. We chose to take the pedestrian walk-way at first. As we looked down to the street, we saw that the police were seemingly leading the protesters to the street in order to keep them safe (or so we thought). At that point, we opted to go back onto the street rather than continue of the pedestrian path.

As we went into the street we heard no warnings at all, none. As you can see in this video, police are ahead of the marchers, seemingly leading them. No warnings are shouted. Warning may have been made to these leading in the front of the crowd, but no warnings were made to the mass of the people. Many were confused and were told nothing by the police officers that were in the middle and rear of the march. Also, in the video posted by NYPD that they claim shows that they warned protesters that their marching on the bridge was illegal, you can clearly see that the video was shot when protestors were already on the bridge. In fact, at this point the protesters had already been netted in with orange nets, preventing from 'dispersing' as they were telling us to do. We were in the back of the crowd by this point, where the nets were first put in place.

At this point people began to line up in order to leave the bridge willingly. The officers were only letting about five people at a time leave. Several minutes passed and suddenly they quit letting people leave. A white shirted officer began to shout to the rear of the crowd, 'You wanted to stay! Now you’re staying! You’re all getting arrested!' Many people in the rear of the crowd began to freak out – many were crying and begging to leave willingly.

I contemplated what to do. In my mind it would be better for me to willingly turn myself in so that I could leave sooner and show that I was not resisting arrest, and explain that I was there to document and take photos. I was then yelled at by the same white-shirt that yelled at the crowd earlier, 'You wanna go in? Ok, then step right up,' as if I was insincere about my willingness to go in.

So I stepped up. I was put against the railing of the bridge, searched and then cuffed with plastic zip-ties. The cuffs would come back to bite me. I was then place in a van along with six other females who willingly turned themselves in and we were driven to several different places before being taken to a Precinct with room for us – or so they thought. We sat in the car for over two and a half hours before being taken inside. During this time my arresting officer agreed with me that my cuffs were too tight, and after having them on for about two hours he cut them and placed new ones on. My hands were numb by this point, my wrists blistered and bruised, and my right hand was purple.

Finally we were taken inside where we were again searched, all of our personal property seized, and I was put into a cell made for one person with two other women. We remained there for over six hours. Keep in mind that during this eight hour plus ordeal we were not given food or water. We were not told what was going on, and allowed no phone calls."

Last week, when I saw the throngs of cops patrolling Zuccoti Park, I wondered whether there was actual crime going on in other parts of the city - crime that was going ignored because the New York City Police Department had decided to launch a campaign of intimidation against a bunch of college kids playing drums and hanging out. At the time, I didn't really regard the protestors as dangerous. But obviously someone thinks they're dangerous. Otherwise they wouldn't be getting all this attention.

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