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Attempted police crackdown on Wall Street

A week since the occupation started, the protests on Wall Street are only growing stronger. Several thousands marched today. The authorities went apeshit. According to Jérôme E. Roos (Roarmag.org):

       #OCCUPYWALLSTREET keeps on growing. Today marked the largest protest since the start of the movement, exactly a week ago. Signs are mounting that the authorities are starting to get increasingly anxious about the potential of the protests to spin “out of control” and go viral.

And so today, just days after Mayor Bloomberg assured protesters they would be “free to express their opinion”, the NYPD went into Mubarak mode, attacking peaceful protesters and making mass arrests of law-abiding citizens for the sole purpose of repressing political dissent. Undoubtedly, as happened in Barcelona before, the police repression will only further reinvigorate the protests.

Organizers claim that at least 80 were arrested and multiple people maced and kettled by police, including innocent bystanders, a number of photographers and also protest organizers — in direct violation of the constitutional right to the freedom of the press, of popular assembly and of political protest.

Once more, the real face of American democracy is revealed through these powerful images by Paul Weiskel. Not a single banker has been arrested for crashing the world economy in 2008, but by now, dozens of law-abiding citizens are in locked up in police stations around New York simply for expressing their inconvenient opinion.

In pictures (via Roarmag.org)

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Below, a report of Julia Riber Pitt (Return to Wall St):

         93 peaceful activists were arrested, simply for marching in «the belly of the beast». Go figure that the criminals who inhabit Wall St. don’t want that kind of attention by activists.

I was able to get to Wall St. later that afternoon. As I was heading to Liberty Plaza I was informed that the Wall St. metro stop was blocked off, so I had to get off at the Fulton St. stop and walk a little. Lower Manhattan was now the most policed place in the country; everywhere were police barriers, checkpoints, and pigs. The actual Wall St. itself was completely blocked off. Other streets were also blocked but had open sidewalk, though a pig stood before each entrance. Certain sidewalks, such as the ones near the Federal Reserve of NY bank, were blocked off with «detour» barriers. I felt like a Palestinian living in the West Bank sans the guns pointed to my head. To make things even weirder, there were very few others walking around that area, which I found odd for Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon.

When I arrived at the Plaza the first thing I noticed were the cops standing all alongside the Plaza’s periphery. It’s kind of hard to believe why a non-violent demonstration consisting of close to a thousand activists would demand that much «security», especially when there’s no indication that this would be anything but a non-violent demonstration. The activists who were in the plaza were talking non-stop about the brutality from pigs and arrests from earlier that day. The first activist who approached me for conversation handed me a surgical mask and a jar of vinegar to dip it in just in case in the pigs decided to
tear-gas the entire plaza. Some pointed out the fact that the pigs standing around the plaza had put on orange vests, which signifies mass-arrest.

Aside from the feeling of preparedness, everyone at the plaza was doing their own thing. I saw Cindy Milstein was there sitting in a discussion circle with other comrades. Some people were playing music. Some people were already crashing out. Others were making signs using slabs of cardboard and paint. I decided to join in the sign-making.

A short time later we had a general assembly. The people speaking gave us legal advice about what to do if any one of us was arrested sometime later. We wrote down the phone number for the Manhattan branch of the National Lawyers’ Guild on our arms just in case.

I spent most of the night talking with my friends Guy (from Brooklyn) and Nelson (from Boston). Guy was telling us how a group of Black Bloc activists from either Detroit or Miami were supposed to show up. He said they should occupy the Wall Street Journal building in protest of our event’s lack of coverage by the mainstream media (how awesome would that be?). He also gave us the news that all 93 of the people arrested earlier were going to be released without any charges. Such a relief.

The pigs kept watching us into the night. At 3AM there were five pigs watching my area from the sidewalk and even more watching the other sides. Really? Sleeping demonstrators need to be spied upon? I swear, the whole point of the police presence is intimidation. The ruling class who hires these thugs knows they have to install a culture of fear to prevent people from challenging their power. I know, our demonstrations aren’t going the extra mile to do that, but they’re a start. The pigs are going to scare people out of doing something bigger and more effective; after all, if they’re going to engage in brutalizing people engaged in a peaceful march who knows what they’ll do to people doing things far more extreme. Maybe that’s why a lot of frustrated people in this country don’t engage in mass demonstrations and riots like people do in Greece, Spain, the UK, Chile, Argentina, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, etc. etc.; they’re far more afraid of armed thugs sticking guns to their heads than they are of exploitation and poverty because they’ve been conditioned in that way. That and skepticism; people hold that «so what is this accomplishing?» mentality to the point where they’re not going to do anything, because they keep assuming their actions will do nothing (in one of the philosophy classes I took last semester we read an article talking about this very thing; that all the «critical thinking» we’re told to learn has turned us into a «generation of debunkers» who hold skepticism as the highest form of intellect rather than genuine critical thinkers. As a result, a lot of people who would have the urge to do something refrain from doing anything). A lot of times that is the case, but even smaller events can build up to something bigger (though I would hold something like the Occupy Wall St. demonstrations as having a far more impacting effect than, say, the antics of the middle-class, privileged people in Free Keene which are supposed to raise awareness about the drug war).

I barely slept at all that night. When I left my resting area to get coffee the Channel 7 News was already set up next to the plaza. Later on, people were passing around the Sunday issue of the New York Daily News. The events from the previous day had made the cover.

Below: photos taken by Julia Riber Pitt

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