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NYPD’s Iron-Handed Response to Occupy Wall Street

(photo: Paul Weiskel )

The New York City police department (NYPD) massively cracked down onpeople who were out in the streets of New York yesterday for Occupy Wall Street. Thousands came out to participate in a demonstration that has been going on for over a week and the police, unprepared for the number of people protesting, responded with “police state” measures.

Firedoglake’s The Dissenter conducted two interviews with people who were on the scene during the crackdown.

Paul Weiskel, a photographer who has been taking photos of the occupation for the past week, explains in an interview recorded yesterday [listen to full interview here] that the police were just “flat-out not prepared for the number of people who took over the streets of Manhattan”:

They had to continually bring in more people and towards the end I honestly felt like it was very close to a police state. I’ve been very hesitant to say the phrase “police brutality” because we don’t live in Syria. We don’t deal with that type of police repression but today the New York Police Department did violently crack down on peaceful protesters, who definitely have legitimate claims, and I was flat out disgusted.

Weiskel, in addition to providing an account of the police response, reacts to the media blackout and how technology is making it possible for citizens to overcome the media’s disinterest in Occupy Wall Street:

I think with the increase in technology the ability to exchange this news, what’s going on, is pretty much equal if you look at the quality of video coming out, if you look at the quality of pictures coming out—if I could say that. The main difference is the audience that you have. There were a lot of tweets saying that right now CNN is running a segment on have dating rules changed in the best decade while people are getting pepper sprayed and beaten by cops on street corners in New York. So, it is a very orchestrated blackout by the media but once we get the audience they’re going to see the images and they’re going to be very high quality and very thought-provoking images.

A New York City resident named Eric also shared his account of the protest and police response yesterday. He says that he was on the scene and saw hundreds of police descend upon the protesters. [listen to the full interview here]  This resulted in bystanders who had nothing to do with the protest being detained:

When I got to 12th St and 5th Avenue, there were about a hundred or more people, protesters, who had been basically herded off by the police on to one side of the street. They had actually been separated off from the other half of the protesters who had already crossed the street. And the police started surrounding with these sort of orange mesh-wire moving cages basically and they actually blocked off the entire street and detained everyone, even non-protesters who were walking.

The police tried to get Eric to leave the scene. He talked to the cops and asked them why the protesters were being arrested. The officers informed him they were being arrested for “disorderly conduct because they were blocking the sidewalk.” But, Eric says “the street and sidewalk were not blocked off until the police had actively blocked the sidewalk.”

The kind of hilarious irony of the whole thing is that this would have been a very sort of small protest. I wouldn’t have noticed. But, what it made it such a big deal were the hundreds of police cordoning off 12th Street, cordoning off 5th Avenue for a block in either direction, two police helicopters flying around—That’s what made it a big deal. So, actually the protesters were not blocking the street or the sidewalk. The police were the ones who actually blocked the street and the sidewalk.

Eric notes in the interview that he has no vested interest in the protest as he was not participating. He was on the scene and just found the way the police handled those exercising their right to peacefully assemble upsetting.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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