La Teatrista

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Voices of the 99%: Battle at Brooklyn Bridge


“As I was getting walked into the police bus, I told a cop that he too is in the ninety-nine percent and they rich don’t care about him either. His exact response to me was, ‘I know but it’s the NYPD, common sense is not a common virtue’ ” -Edward Pages Age 30 Cinematographer.

What started as a wondrous and promising event on Saturday afternoon that reverberated through the financial district from Liberty Park to Brooklyn Bridge, ended with an even louder cause for the reprimand of the one percent currently in control of the United States economy and law. Thousands of protesters marched up Broadway demonstrating peacefully with energy and spirit, a unified voice to demand attention from the nation as the ninety-nine percent. Together, these Americans painted a vibrant portrait of the ninety-nine percent from all colors, ages, cultures, backgrounds, occupations and walks of life including children, students, and the elderly. By the time the sun went down, reports of seven-hundred Americans were arrested for allegedly disrupting the peace and obstructing traffic.

After two weeks of building awareness and organized sustainability, the Occupy Wall Street movement reached another peak in its momentum to demand accountability for the corporate rape of America. The Declaration of the Occupation approved by the consensus on September 29th was drafted twelve days after the first demonstrations which resulted in arrests and evidence of excessive force used by New York Police. 

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known. ”

Twenty facts where addressed in the new Declaration mirroring the same structure and effort of the original Declaration of Independence. This is a powerful symbol, clearly suggesting a new era after two-hundred and thirty-five years since the country’s first revolution. The Declaration identified corporate impunities, discrimination, worker’s rights, environmental crimes, profit-mongering, torture, murder, brutality and healthcare issues among others.
I witnessed the announcement of the Declaration in the General Assembly broadcast via the people’s microphone. A powerful call and response method for amplification of speeches through people’s voices not only used to comply with NYPD regulations, but to embody the message of the protest with the collective use of voices. Participating as a voice, gave me pride as an American like I never felt before.

The event that preceded Saturday’s chaos was momentous, the largest gathering in support of Occupy Wall St. With tremendous clamor, the assembly before the march warmly received the presence and public support from New York’s Transit Workers Union Local, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). The March Against Police Brutality was an invigorating message to the NYPD that their tactics were unlawful and their actions needed to be held accountable. Almost three thousand demonstrators sat down on One Police Plaza in front of armed and riot geared wall of officers with waves of speeches filling the plaza. The assembly met their agenda and dispersed peacefully. Based on the following day’s event, the NYPD actions were a clear and planned response.

This is my account.

At three pm the large assembly gathered and made their way to Brooklyn Bridge. I was at the back of the march. I attended alone, but felt peaceful and safe among my unfamiliar marchers. The police were watchful and respectful of the protesters making sure we were staying on the sidewalks. When the end of the train finally arrived at the base of the bridge, there seemed to be a split. A trail of our train went onto the pedestrian walkway, we continued on the road. As the road descended, some scaled the fence to join others on the walkway. The majority continued onto the road. We walked by police and they said nothing. The wall of police behind us kept distance and followed us. They said nothing. The march stopped. There was an uproar to keep marching, but the frontline communicated chants that echoed and reached us in a wave. It was clear the police had blocked the frontline. The crowd spread and filled the entire road from one side to another. No cars were able to pass, we were stalled.

Officers were advancing when next to me, a man in orange quietly sat down crossed his legs with his sign in his lap, closed his eyes and exhaled. In an instant, this powerful and peaceful gesture charged me with emotion. I moved forward, my legs drawn to join him, but before I could make a solid decision, police officers descended on him. I backed away and began recording the arrest with my phone. Six officers surrounded him and we cried “Let him go!” We chanted, “He did nothing!”. A high ranking officer waved over the other officers in his command. With that, I stopped my camera, knowing what was coming. 

Trucks drove up. The fast approaching officers were clearly prepared with dozens of zip-cuffs on their belts. The orange nets were being carried in and I kept close to the side of the bridge. A few others began to leave and I slowly walked away. Once I felt that they were not going to stop me, I gained speed. I made eye contact with one Officer, who only replied with shaking his head. Officers yelled at us to keep moving. I was lucky, but I have this residue of mixed emotions of relief and guilt with anger and frustration having watched my fellow protesters trapped on the bridge.

People who made it back to the Manhattan entrance were told to disperse by police. It was comforting to be able to approach complete strangers I marched with to debrief, consult and share. In our shared eye contact, moments of true solidarity and support was felt in ripples. A group re-convened at the base of the bridge and confronted police with calling out names they captured of the arrested. Finally, I found friends that were on the pedestrian level. They noted that police had threatened them to disperse or face arrest. They were witnesses with cameras recording all what had unfolded below. What was certain by the majority who where there: police led the group onto the bridge, giving the impression they were offering protection when indeed they planned to kettle the protesters.

These unlawful arrests and the entrapment ordered only fueled a stronger solidarity. Media attention from major networks clearly supported the NYPD statements. New York Times changed their reports. This story is intended as a beginning.

The Voices of the 99% will be documented. These stories will offer truthful accounts and perspectives of a new movement to inspire dialog in a now rapidly changing America for observers abroad. There is power. Change is possible.

For more information and access to the declaration go to: OccupyWallSt.org

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