Nearly 100 people have been arrested for protesting in and around Wall Street in New York during what some are referring to as "The Arab Spring of The United States". Outraged over the way U.S. political and financial worlds are being managed, protesters calling themselves "The 99%" have gathered to share their grievances and demand change from the top one-percent of America.
There is an old saying in the media (or should that be 'dark humor'?) that goes: "if it bleeds, it leads". For more than a week now, people have gathered in New York to protest on Wall Street, but you wouldn’t know it from just reading the daily headlines. Specifically, there has been little to no coverage in the U.S. media, and one has to wonder if the reason is due to the fact that protests are not seen as 'news' until they become chaotic.
Even we here at The Tech Herald, while following live video feeds and comments online, skipped coverage of the protest because it was peaceful. Also, the police assigned to guard and protect areas around Wall Street and Liberty Plaza were seemingly friendly, outwardly respectful of the people’s right to demonstrate.
In all honestly, the week's major news out of Wall Street centered not on the protesters or their aims, but on a small pizza joint and its owners who were making a killing on food deliveries. There were arrests, but most were due to protesters being disrespectful, and they were certainly in the minority of those representing The 99%.
In the cold and rain, protesters sleep. When they wake, they gather to march and chant their message of change. Peaceful, using only their voices and cameras as tools, they stand united as The 99% “that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
An Anonymous statement to those on Wall Street explains that they "are not at the eye of the storm", but rather are facing something much larger.
“Some four years ago you shattered this country, liquidating it piecemeal for your own selfish interests. We are here, gathered at the steps of your butcher block four years later, frenzied and furious. We are Democrats and Republicans, young and old. Your horrendous actions have crossed party lines. Your crimes have united this great melting pot into a white hot alloy of rage,” reads the Anonymous statement.
“The world is stirring and with it, revolution is brewing. Perhaps you see yourselves at the eye of the storm, luxuriating in peace and tranquility while all around is ripped apart and made anew.” it continues.
“Anonymous is here to offer a gentle reminder: You are not at the eye of the storm. You are at the center of the crosshairs! The people have grown weary of their corporate shackles, the greed of Wall Street having left them with nothing to lose, but their chains. From Cairo to Iran, London to Tunisia and Syria to Greece, this is our day of rage.”
A leaderless resistance movement, 'Occupy Wall Street' got its start in July, when Adbusters promoted the idea of a nonviolent protest at the center of the country’s financial power.
“Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants,” protest organizers explained.
The group started on September 17, and one week later protest crowds grew from a few hundred to over a thousand (based on estimations and images). Online, the #occupywallstreet hash tag on Twitter gathered support from people around the world, many of whom have since made donations and offered encouragement. Yet, during this week, despite the rain and cold, the mood was upbeat.
While the protesters clearly wanted some serious concerns addressed, there was nothing threatening about the gathered crowds, aside from raised voices. In fact, in some cases the police outnumbered the protesters, most standing silent, while others used their own cameras to record events.
It was peaceful. In the world of mass media, peace doesn’t gain readers and it doesn’t sell newspapers. It seems harsh to say, but that is how things are, and reporters rarely get to pick the topics they cover. During the previous week, both the police and protesters were calm and ordered. People were wearing smiles, and positive discussions were being had in and out of the protest lines.
However, all of that changed on Saturday.
More pointedly, police carrying an orange fence through Union Square started to corral protesters and herd them onto sidewalks as the weekend dawned. The goal was apparently to both keep them off the streets and to prevent them from standing in one place for too long. And so, armed with batons and cameras, the police flanked and shadowed marching protesters, who were moving to the brisk cadence of beating drums.
Some protesters were immediately compliant with the movement of accompanying police officers and their dynamic orange fence. Yet others weren't so willing, choosing instead to move at a pace the police deemed to be defiant and slow. As the police issued more orders to move, those who did not do so immediately were threatened with arrest.
According to the NYPD, subsequent arrests made on Saturday were for disorderly conduct and resisting. Many of those taken into custody were said to have been blocking pedestrian traffic or vehicular traffic as they loitered in one spot. Others were non-compliant with police orders and/or resisted somewhat while being forcibly removed.
The most shocking images from Saturday’s protest centered on a group of women on the sidewalk. Screaming with sheer panic one of these women is brought to her knees by police pepper spray, grabbing wildly at the air in a futile attempt to find something - anything - to clear her eyes and mouth of burning pain. Truly, that image reflects a twisted turn of events considering how peacefully things started just a week earlier.
What makes the pepper spray attack even more troubling is that, by all accounts, the women were standing where they were supposed to be. Yet, they were prevented from moving along with the rest of the group due to the same orange fence used to corral others out of the street earlier. Even officers holding the fence in place looked shocked and confused as one of their superiors sprayed the area.
Caught in something of a fenced-in cage, the women were reacting to the arrest of a protester a few feet from them when the incident took place. Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for the protest, condemned the actions and tactics used by attending police as "exceedingly violent", noting that the protesters had sought to remain peaceful at all times.
The video clips below offer a more defined view of what happened. Take note, some of the following content may be shocking to some readers:
Another video outlines the general chaos that surrounded the protesters on Saturday.
It is presently unknown why the protest event shifted from peaceful to chaotic so quickly. And, to make matters worse, a person from the Chemical and Biological Response Unit of the Department of Homeland Security seemed to be taunting protesters by wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, which is a symbol used by Anonymous.
Why would law enforcement agencies do this, especially if they are stressing that some of the actions taken by protesters were/are illegal?
Unfortunately, the fear remains that the Occupy Wall Street movement will mirror recent protests seen in Egypt, Tunisia, and Greece. If this happens, such chaos and violence could happen again, and things will get only worse for the protesters.
More information can be located via the direct links below.