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Occupy Wall Street Arrests: An Eyewitness View

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OCCUPY WALL STREET
Joshua Stephens

Joshua Stephens, 33, had joined the protest march and had ended up on the Brooklyn Bridge. He managed to avoid being one of the 500 or so penned in by the NYPD and arrested. HuffPost reached him by phone, and he provided a first-hand narrative of just what happened on the bridge:

"The people who plotted the march did not give out the route in advance. There were people stationed throughout the march in the procession who were helping guide us when it was time to turn. They told people at the beginning 'we have a route, we're not announcing it.' I think that was a reaction to what happened before when the cops pepper-sprayed those women up in Union Square.

I was a little surprised when we got down to City Hall, and people started turning onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is generally choked with tourists, just choked with tourists. If you are a cyclist, you just never take the Brooklyn Bridge...it's just a really frustrating experience...There's so many people on it all the time.

As we were turning to the entrance to the bridge, one of the protest people, the organizers, appeared to be cooperating with police. They were standing right there in front of cops. This march up until it went on the bridge was all on the sidewalk. The Troy Davis march which I was on, we took the street.

On this march, from basically Wall Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, if you stepped off the sidewalk to go around the signpost you would either be told nicely or as if you were at bootcamp to get back on the sidewalk. There was zero tolerance. If they successfully policed everybody to stay out of the streets up to the bridge, what prevented them from keeping us on the pedestrian walkway?

It just seemed odd to me, all of a sudden, people could go wherever they wanted [on the bridge]. People were splitting off.

The interesting thing is the cops could have stopped people from getting on the motorway at any point. You had thousands of people in that march--easily two or three thousand -- and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is not wide. It's narrow. It's the width of a walkway. You can't just rush it. The march slowed to almost a stop. The police would have had plenty of opportunity to prevent people [from going] down to the motorway.

The police were just standing. I saw police standing there. It was all very chill. They were definitely at ease. It was almost like everything was as it should be. Then once we were on the bridge, all these cops came out of nowhere with flex ties and paddy wagons-- that seemed like a whole separate cadre of cops.

At the time, nothing about it seemed conspicuous. There was a protest organizer who was standing right in front of the cops who was directing people with disabilities up to the pathway. We were cracking jokes, we were all packed in there like sardines at the entrance. Wherever you happened to be you were forced to walk in a straight line. I just happened to be positioned to go up to the walkway.

As we started going up the pedestrian part of it, there were lots of middle-aged and retirement-aged people who ended up down at the motorway--and when the cops began to mobilize, they literally started climbing the fence. Six people at a time, hoisting up over these cast iron posts. People were risking being impaled on this fence to get off this motorway. As you get further on to the bridge, the motorway gets further below.

We didn't get far on the bridge before I saw cops mobilize behind us. There was a formation. I could see maybe 15 to 20 cops all with like reams of flex ties--a square formation standing and then marching towards Brooklyn. And they had paddy wagons going onto the bridge in reverse. They were backing up onto the bridge so they could go forward toward Manhattan. That started happening--I think that happened as soon as the last person got on the bridge.

They had cops coming from the other side and stop them from going any further. I couldn't hear anything. I was too far up. I saw the cops march up. At one point, they actually stopped again. And then they advanced forward again. I was just shocked, I looked down and saw all these people. How the fuck are they going to arrest all these people?

The march basically stopped below us. We stopped. I could see people beginning to sit down because they were blockaded in. They saw they were blocked so they just sat down.

I saw people come up over the, like climbing up, the side of the bridge, climbing up over the railing. I went over to help them. I looked down and there were just giant bridge-sized diagonal. beams crossing at an X. Not much for someone to climb on, There wasn't a shit ton to grab on to. They were putting themselves at considerable risk. There were people who looked college-aged and people who looked like somebody's parent climbing the Brooklyn Bridge....

People were even advising them to stop. They were climbing 30, 40, 50 feet up to get over this railing. It was pandemonium.

I didn't see any scuffles, antagonizing, resisting arrest. The only thing dramatic I saw were people climbing the bridge like Turk 182-style. That was the only drama I saw..."

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