When 20-year-old New York photographer Shay Horse dropped by his first Occupy Wall Street march on May 23rd, 2012, a friendly fellow protester approached him and started making small talk. "He just asked me what my name was, what my involvement was, pretty general stuff," Horse says. From then on, Horse ran into the protestor, whom he knew only knew as "Al," at practically every Occupy Wall Street event. He even invited him to his birthday party. But it turns out "Al" was actually an undercover cop, 32 year-old NYPD detective Wojciech Braszczok.
Braszczok's cover was blown in the aftermath of the bizarre SUV vs. motorcycle viral video. He was arrested today after he was seen on a new video punching the SUV among the gang of motoryclists in Manhattan, according to NBC New York. He was off duty at the time, but was charged with riot and criminal mischief. NBC reported that in five years of working undercover he'd infiltrated the Occupy Wall Street movement. This set the OWS community hunting for recollections of the dark-haired guy with the mohawk: "Al," or "Albert."
The face was instantly recognizable to many protestors because, according to Occupiers, Al was omnipresent at OWS events, beginning at Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park in 2011. "He was just a face," said José Martín, a longtime Occupier and organizer with Newton Legal Collective. "I know people who worked with some of the storage in Zuccotti Park, and he would occasionally run an errand and go to the storage."
As Occupy Wall Street's public profile faded after being evicted from Zuccotti in November, 2011, Albert stuck around, attending 2012 marches in solidarity with student protestors in Quebec, and events this year.
"He was at every major action," said Horse. "He was down at the smaller occupations we had at the Trinity Church and Occupy Goldman Sachs. He stopped by all those. He was heavily involved and he was at everything. He even came to smaller Occupy parties. He was at everything and anything he could get access to."
Horse said he and a number of other protesters became friendly with Al, chatting whenever they ran into him at a march or meeting. Just last month, on September 14th, Al attended Horse's 20th birthday party at a bar. And in June he was at another Occupier's birthday.
"I personally invited him because I saw him at an action the week before and I was like you're coming to my party and he was like alright." He didn't drink much and left early. Horse remembers Al to be friendly but reserved. The only things Horse knew about Al were his first name, and that he claimed to live in Queens (where Braszczok actually does live).
"I feel betrayed," Horse said.
Al could be enthusiastic about protesting at times. Horse recalled a 2012 planning meeting for the Occupy Wall Street's one year anniversary on September 17th where he and Al split off with a group dedicated to planning Direct Action—the street-level marches and demonstrations. They were talking about their vision for September 17th and when it was Al's turn, "He said his opinion of what we should be doing on the first anniversary was to be more out on the street and blocking more traffic."
On Twitter, where Occupy activists and Russia Today say Al/Braszczok went by the handle evovillen, tweets show him promoting an Occupy "noise demo" to support arrested Anonymous hacktivist Jeremy Hammond, and a spring training session at the New York Stock Exchange in April, 2012
Come join us in spring training by occupying the stock exchange today at 2:30pm. Hope to see you there— Fastest (@evovillen) April 6, 2012
Hey is the *SANDY SPECIAL PART 3* REBUILDING OCCUPY TO CONNECT, MOBILIZE AND CO-CREATE WITH, assembly Happening at 60 wall today— Fastest (@evovillen) December 1, 2012
But his cover wasn't impeccable. In one apparent slip-up, a poster on the forum Streeteasy using the handle evovillen wrote in a thread about crime in Long Island City, "I'm a cop and I patroled LIC". And internet sleuths have found a public photobucket account belonging to evovillen with photos of a man who appears to be Braszczok and some x-rated photos of a number of different women. Not to mentions some pretty cool looking motorcycles.