La Teatrista

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Voices of the 99%: Echoes from Brooklyn Bridge


For all those who were suspended on that concrete slab over a river, The of Battle of Brooklyn Bridge left an imprint in our memory.  The media that evening had difficulty assessing who the specific group was that took the movement to the bridge and unsurprisingly held up the Police statement before anyone else’s on that bridge. There are seven-hundred stories. Seven-hundred accounts of that day, seven hundred voices that all were there for a reason and were arrested. Seven-hundred New Yorkers took a stand, here is one of them.

“My name is Dion Mucciaccito and I am an Actor, Director, a teaching artist, and activist for at risk youth / inner city youth. I have worked as a teaching artist, teaching self empowerment through the arts, in New York, New Orleans, South Africa, San Diego, and South Florida.   I was part of the Battle of Brooklyn Bridge on Oct 1st.  This is my witnessing of the events. 

We were marching towards the Brooklyn Bridge. I started walking on the pedestrian lane somewhere in the middle of the march.  I looked over to my right and saw white collared police officers in a line walking in the direction of Brooklyn on the street portion of the bridge in front of the arm of the march that started going down that way.  From my perception, it seemed that the police were going to escort us across the bridge. So, I joined them. 

As we marched across, we noticed Police were also marching behind us.  Then the march stopped as we were barricaded from the front, and the back.  A panic then surged through the crowd and people started to climb the fifteen foot wall to the pedestrian walk way.  A girl next to me started to cry.  Two women in their fifties were next to me and were very worried about what was going to happen next.  We linked up arms and exchanged names as we were complete strangers.  It then seemed that the police were letting people leave in a bottle neck that they created in the back of the march where I was.  I asked the two women I was linked up with if they wanted to leave, and they said "yes." We tried to make our way to the choke point, but made no progress.

I later found out from my arresting officer that there were individuals in the choke point that refused to move, when given the choice to leave, which gave the police the ok to start arresting people for disorderly conduct.  There was a monk in his sixties who sat down to meditate in peaceful protest, and was dragged off.  I would later share a jail cell with this man.  Many people sat and had to be carried out. I was singled out and ordered to come out to be arrested. I was cuffed and put in a police paddy wagon along with nine others. My arresting officer was an extreme gentle man and very courteous and communicated with me in a very civil way. There was no excessive force by this man, and I found him to be quite compassionate and had a good sense of humor about things. I wish there were more like him. 

I was one of the first fifteen or so people to be arrested in the back of the protest.  There were ten of us in the back of the paddy wagon, all cuffed with hands behind our back, sweating it out as we waited in the dark.  The guy next to me had to urinate and was not allowed to do so until forty-five minutes later after we had arrived at the station and the first van had been processed.  The guy across from me had a previous rotator cuff injury and was in a good deal of pain with the cuffs behind his back. 

After an hour of waiting in the rain with the police officers, I was finally brought inside to be processed. I was put into a big holding cell with about twenty others.  Within two hours we had one-hundred men in the cell.  As each new man came in, they were greeted with a standing ovation and cheers.  The women being brought to their cells were also applauded as we could see them through the window of our cell.  Immediately strangers became friends and this motley crew of mixed races, classes, sexual orientations, and ages started engaging each other in dialog about democracy and solidarity with each other. 

There was an African American Pastor from a Brooklyn church there, and was the first one arrested, because he "couldn't, as a man of faith, stand by and watch people be hurt."  The Monk in his sixties who was earlier arrested while meditating had no ID on him, and was told that he might be kept for three days.  The group then voted to see if they wanted to go on a hunger strike to get him out. Those that agreed did not eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk that was provided. Those that did not, ate the food. 

I found myself serving as the guy who pours the water for people.  They brought in two big five gallon jugs of water with cups. These are heavy so we needed to have one person pour while the other person holds the cup.  This became my service for the next five hours, which I gladly did.  
I was released at 12:45 out of 1 police plaza, and then proceeded to call all of my family and friends that were worried about me.  I made it home by 2:30 am.”

How did this community become criminals? A teaching artist, a Pastor, a monk where processed as criminals.  This response from the NYPD to the prior march on Police Plaza, proved to be ineffectual.  It only created deeper bonds within the protesters.  It only made the reason for resistance stronger.

The day following the event, Dion friended me on Facebook after seeing my videos and posts. I was still reeling from it all. I had to share my experience with someone since I had gone alone. In an effort to piece together this event, I asked for stories and I discovered I must have been only a few feet from Dion.  The monk he spoke of was right in front of me. We were connected.
Another protester, Danny Valdez, described the most vivid part of the memory,
"I remember during the intense moments on the bridge when we all knew arrest was imminent someone yelled out and we repeated: “Mic check! It is an honor and a privilege to be arrested with you all today. Fifty years from now, when you tell your grandkids about this, you can say that you were a soldier in the Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge!” And there among the tears and the worries and the panic, we found a place to cheer and stand together."
When I read this in the account he wrote for Indypendant, I posted it on my wall. Edward Pages, I had previously quoted in my last letter, also a new Facebook addition as a result of this event, replied, “That was me!”.  He is forever remembered. Though we are all still strangers, we have an unforgettable bond.  Unfortunately, this spirited arrest was not the same experience for everybody.
I marched this past October 5th for the Community Labor March. The day New York broke open and swelled into a true picture of democracy that hasn’t been seen in decades.  Again, I fly solo trying to maybe meet up with friends but in the sea of people I found myself floating with them. There was an indescribable joy and fervor.  As the spirit and mass movement encouraged, I started conversations with fellow protesters and began talking with a man behind me. He was older, large, heavyset and Polish. He was also there at the Bridge. John was held for thirty hours only given milk and no water.  As we marched on, I got his information.
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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