Thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters flooded Times Square Saturday to oppose an economic system the activists say isn’t providing for the “99 percent” of American citizens who aren’t hedge fund managers.
What unfolded was a dramatic confrontation between the NYPD and protesters in which individuals were almost mowed down by police motorcycles, nearly trampled by horses, and ultimately ninety-two activists were arrested.
The original plan was for protesters to march from Washington Square Park, where a gathering had been scheduled earlier that afternoon, to 42nd street. NYPD strictly enforced the “march only on the sidewalk” rule, and I saw two young men arrested for violating that policy when they wandered into the street.
Additionally, an Italian cameraman had his press pass ripped from his neck when he went into the street to film the police. NYPD was very careful to specifically (and loudly) warn the remaining journalists that they too could have their passes seized at any time if they wandered off the curb.
A young man named Hero, whom I had met earlier in the week and who has become a familiar face at Liberty Park, was also arrested during the march. When I spoke to another OWS protester, he seemed convinced Hero was targeted because the police thought he was a leader. The protester then turned to the procession and led them in a chant, declaring, “We have no leader!”
Ikio Rodriguez was dressed in a suit and standing on the curb when an officer inexplicably rushed him, pushed him backward across the sidewalk, and began patting him down. Rodriguez shouted that the officer’s behavior was illegal, but then appeared to consent to the pat-down. The officer claimed he had seen Rodriguez hold his waist in a suspicious manner and wanted to make sure he didn’t have a weapon. When I spoke with him, Rodriguez said he was wearing the suit and new shoes so he could “maybe get a job in the near future.”
RT filmed footage of Rodriguez’s pat down (beginning at 2:19). Hero’s arrest is shown at (2:41):
The march continued onward despite the arrests toward the goal: Times Square. Plans changed quickly when OWS reached 42nd street and found it netted off by the NYPD. Police instructed the activists to walk up to 46th street and approach Times Square from that direction.
As the group advanced along 46th street, however, chaos briefly broke out when a group of motorcycle-riding officers surged forward, nearly running over the protesters, who cried out in a mix of fright and anger.
A terrifyingly claustrophobic experience ensued in which the NYPD penned protesters with barriers on either side of Seventh Avenue. Activists were pressed against one another, unable to move without shoving past one another. Rather than do that, many sat down to peacefully protest.
An aerial shot of Times Square (photo by @johndeguzman):