Having, apparently, nothing better to do, NYPD spent Saturday allowing Occupy Wall Street protesters to halfway-cross the Brooklyn Bridge before cutting the marchers off and arresting several people, a controversial crowd-control tactic known as "kettling." Here's an eyewitness account.
It's Day 15 of Occupy Wall Street, the loosely-organized peaceful protest against, essentially, everything that's fucked up about America in 2011, and the NYPD—whose pepper spray-happy employee Anthony Bologna has so far done more to legitimize the protests than any other single person—still hasn't quite seem to have learned its lesson: the more it overreacts, the worse it looks, and the harder it makes its own job. Today, as protesters marched from their base in Zuccotti Park, the department shut down one side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Gawker staff writer Adrian Chen was there:
So, when the protest reached the bridge a large portion peeled off and started up the Brooklyn-bound roadway. People started hopping off the walkway, joining them. We went along fine for a while until we reached maybe midway. There, a phalanx of cops—maybe 50—were blocking the way. Cops began arresting people up front, and a couple caused some scuffles. Right when the first arrests started happening, the crowd started jostling back and forth and I seriously thought there might be a stampede.
Cops shoved one guy down and were kneeling on him. When they tried to drag someone else out of the crowd people held onto his arms as long as possible; a guy stole one white-shirtted cop's hat from his head and threw it into the air. There's definitely going to be some dramatic footage but I couldn't tell how the rough stuff started. While the scuffles continued, leaders got everyone to sit down, but the cops kept arresting people, starting from the front, even though they were sitting down. A bunch of police vans blocked off the way back to Manhattan, so people started scaling the bridge to climb up to the walkway ~10 feet above. Eventually they brought out the orange mesh and began funneling people back to manhattan one-by-one, telling everyone to keep moving cause we were all "subject to arrest." I was maybe in the middle section of people who walked out that way—seemed like they kept arresting people up front as they were letting people out the rear.
This is called "kettling," and it's more than a little controversial. It's also unlikely to do anything besides galvanize even more support and sympathy for the protesters, especially when the video becomes widespread—watching the the livestream, we saw nearly a dozen people, chanting peacefully, get dragged away, including (and watch for this one, it'll be big), a very young-looking girl in some kind of animal-shaped knit cap. (The NYPD may also come to regret arresting New York Times freelancer Natasha Lennard, under circumstances which are still unclear.)
For now, the pedestrian path has reportedly been cleared, and both sides of the bridge shut down. Police are reportedly still arresting protesters and placing them on corrections buses. You can watch globalrevolution's livestream of the protests here.
Update: The NYT reports that about 400 people have been arrested.
[image via Adrian Chen]