JAISAL NOOR, FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS: More than 700 people taking part in Occupy Wall Street were arrested on Saturday as thousands attempted to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Demonstrators, including the hundreds who have camped out just blocks from Wall Street since September 17, say they represent the majority of Americans. They aim to spark a social movement that can challenge the concentration of economic and political power. The New York Police Department say they warned protesters they would be arrested if they walked across the Brooklyn Bridge’s roadway instead of the elevated pedestrian walkway. Police then used large orange nets to pen the protesters on the bridge and proceeded to arrest them one by one. But David Suker, a New York City public school teacher and US Army veteran who took part in the march, says the police lured the demonstrators onto the bridge.
DAVID SUKER, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: The police told us that if we continued on the roadway, we would get arrested for disorderly conduct. But then, after that, they opened up the roadway for us, and the demonstrators–the demonstration, the–almost the entirety of the demonstration followed onto the roadway. So maybe at that point–I think the people up front were warned, the first 25 to 50 people, but everybody else was not.
NOOR: The police had city buses waiting to transport the hundreds of arrested protesters to prison. Despite the escalating arrests, support for Occupy Wall Street has grown over the last week, and some, including educator Yotam Marom, says this weekend’s mass arrest was a way to intimidate those planning a labor and community mobilization this Wednesday.
YOTAM MAROM, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: And I think that was a clear message. You know what? We’re going to arrest 700 people, and that’s going to scare unions, working families, people who are actually struggling with real issues and can’t miss work, who have kids, who have–and they’re not going to come out on Wednesday, ’cause if they do come out on Wednesday, that’s a big deal. And I think that was part of a really clear move to try to keep this limited to, you know, young people who are militant and whatever, and keep it from being truly representative of people with real needs in NYC. And I really hope that the unions and community groups come out anyway, because not only would that disprove what the police are trying to do, but it also–it is the protection that we and they need. They can’t be arrested. And that’s why they’re trying to scare them away, because they really do give us the legs that we need to make this a serious movement.
NOOR: Police use of mass arrests to break up large protests is not new. Michael Ratner is the president of the civil rights advocacy group The Center for Constitutional Rights. He argues these latest arrests are part of a pattern also displayed at the G-8 Summit in Toronto and past political conventions.
MICHAEL RATNER, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Why did they arrest them? They didn’t arrest them because they were doing anything wrong, just as they didn’t arrest those people on the bridge because they were doing anything wrong. They arrested them because they don’t want people on the streets. They don’t want huge manifestations of thousands, tens of thousands, and maybe hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, because they know that that’s how change is made in this country.
NOOR: In response to the mass arrests and police brutality, thousands marched Friday from the Wall Street encampent to police headquarters. There, participants called for an end to police brutality and racism. Among them was 21-year-old Bronx resident Jorge Javier. He says law enforcement’s everyday treatment of low-income communities of color is now undeniable to the mostly white protesters and the media.
JORGE JAVIER, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: I think their eyes were opened to, like, a dark truth, essentially, you know, that the police, maybe, and I wouldn’t just say in NY, but definitely in NY, has a very heavy hand, you know, and they do not hesitate. I think it’s very telling that it was–that in the videos, it was, like, the high-ranking officers who were doing the–’cause it’s almost like it just really shows almost what they represent and what their kind of modus operandi, almost, is, like, their modes of operation is.
NOOR: Support for the occupiers has taken many different forms. Saturday saw the distribution of nearly 50,000 copies of a paper called The Occupied Wall Street Journal. Since Thursday, 900 people have donated over $37,000 online to publish the paper. Cocreator Arun Gupta says the paper relays the ideas, stories, and people of the occupation.
ARUN GUPTA, THE OCCUPIED WALL STREET JOURNAL: The occupy wall st movement has been represented–and even more often misrepresented–in the mainstream media. So the idea was behind this that there needs to be some sort of media project in print coming out of the occupation.
NOOR: Protesters have declared they intend to occupy Wall Street through New York’s frigid winter months. Demonstrators planned another rally Monday outside City Hall to protest the latest round of mass arrests. Reporting for The Real News Network, this is Jaisal Noor in New York.
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