In the wake of Saturday's 744 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, some on the internet claimed that those who entered the span's main roadway were fooled by the police into violating the law.
One video released on the web appeared to show a high-ranking police officer leading the marchers. Two other videos released by the NYPD in response, however, showed officers warning an exuberant crowd that they would be arrested on the bridge. The NYPD said protestors were well aware of what they were getting into.
The statements of several of the arrestees who spoke at Sunday's Occupy Wall Street General Assembly seem to burnish the police's version of events, at least as they pertain to the demonstrators who took the lead in marching onto the roadway of the bridge. The Assembly's minutes, which only record first names, include several relevant announcements from Sunday night.
One person told the group, according the Assembly's minutes, "My name is Garrett[.] I’ve been empowered to speak on behalf of some people who took the bridge yesterday. They wanted you to know that they are very proud of what they did. They were not tricked, the only reason they’re not here speaking to you is because they have charges pending and they don’t want to talk on camera. But they feel that they’re [sic] actions were exemplary of the diversity of tactics that are part of the principles of unity of this occupation."
"Perhaps we should be more clear before marches with folks that any time you step off the curb and get off the sidewalk during an unpermitted [sic] march you’re subject to a much higher risk of arrest," the minutes continue. "Although we’re hearing from the precint [sic] that the vast majority of folks who took the highway understood exactly the implications of what they’re doing."
"I was arrested yesterday," said Joshua. "I took the street and I’d do it again."
Another arrestee named Nolini said, "I’m from Brooklyn and I wanted to do that shit since I was 2 years old."
Those first-person accounts are consistent with what a reporter for the New York Times who was also arrested on Saturday, Natasha Lennard, witnessed. From Lennard's vantage point, a "breakaway group" decided to move off the pre-planned route -- a legal march over the bridge's pedestrian path -- and onto the road.
Those "couple of dozen marchers made the decision to move off the sidewalk into the road at the bridge’s entrance to chants of 'off the sidewalks, into the streets.'"
That small group of forceful marchers, Lennard writes, was quickly followed by hundreds more people caught up in the moment. Some -- maybe hundreds -- of those who followed the breakaway group did not realize they would be arrested, perhaps believing that the NYPD had reluctantly capitulated to the bridge walk in the face of an overpowering crowd.
Lennard writes that "as protesters walked further onto the bridge, it seemed that our path to Brooklyn would not be impeded."
But because of a decision made by the NYPD to undertake mass detentions -- a choice that some, like the New Yorker's John Cassidy, have criticized as heavy-handed and counter-productive -- the protestors' assumptions about the likelihood of arrest turned out incorrect.
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