More than 700 individuals were detained this weekend in a dramatic mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge. Before the march across the bridge began, however, it seemed the police were prepared for an entirely different kind of encounter.
NBC reporter Richard Engel tweeted the following message:
Yet the police didn’t appear to make any kind of aggressive move to cut off the protesters before they reached the bridge. In fact, in the various video clips emerging online, the police appear to either be deliberating escorting the protesters across the bridge or passively marching at the front of the crowd.
In an interview conducted with Democracy Now! a protester explained that the police appeared to be leading them onto the bridge to “protect them from traffic.” Other accounts have also emerged in which participants claim the police didn’t make a serious effort to stop the protesters from crossing the bridge.
The NYPD released video showing a captain with a bullhorn warning the protesters, but it’s unclear when the bullhorn first made its appearance. For example, in this video an officer is clearly warning protesters through a bullhorn, but the timeline of events is unclear. Has the netting already been pulled up behind the activists? Is there even a way for them to retreat at this point?
Protesters claim they were led onto the bridge before netting was pulled across the bridge behind them, effectively pinning them in place. It was only then, the activists claim, they were informed they were to be arrested.
It’s also a possibility that only the front of the group was aware they were being told to stop, while the middle and back of the crowd obliviously marched onward. But none of the videos that have emerged thus far show the police warning the approaching body—meaning the group moving from the walkway to the road—to stop or risk arrest.
Those arrested included New York Times freelance reporter Natasha Lennard.
In her report for the Times, Lennard writes that she did not personally witness police leading protesters, but adds, “it seemed our path to Brooklyn would not be impeded.” Lennard doesn’t mention warnings or bullhorns. “I could not hear any police orders,” she writes.