NEW YORK -- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, the New York Stock Exchange and the subways to raise their voices against what they say is corporate excess.
But since police in riot helmets, batons and riot shields ousted them from their two-month encampments, Occupy Wall Street protesters singled out officers as another enemy, saying their crowd control tactics were an excessive, chilling use of force against free speech.
"The police played their role. I wouldn't call it respectful," said Danny Shaw, 33, on Thursday in a day of protests across the country to mark the two-month anniversary of the movement against what demonstrators say is economic inequality.
Tear gas in Oakland, Calif., pepper spray that hit an 84-year-old Seattle woman in the face and hundreds of arrests of demonstrators and journalists at Occupy protests across the U.S. this week shone the spotlight on the varying crowd control tactics of police, most who used helmets and riot gear as they broke up encampments in New York and other cities.
"Police Brutality," protesters' signs blared. New York officials have called for investigations of the police raid of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan early Tuesday.
Experts on policing say departments have used necessary tactics to control unpredictable, sometimes violent protesters, and that the police haven't reached the stages yet of full riot protection.
"I don't think they're rioting at Occupy Wall Street, not yet, but they are getting out of control," said Maki Haberfeld, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "If they were rioting, you would see much more riot gear" like sonic devices and high-powered weapons, she said.
But the images that have played across the country have been disconcerting to some: 84-year-old Dorli Rainey's face dripping with pepper spray and the liquid used to treat it, and police and protesters pushing each other in New York Thursday over metal barricades in downtown Manhattan.
"When somebody puts their hands on somebody itself, it never looks right," Haberfeld said. "But this is what they're allowed to do. ... It is truly not excessive and I am surprised by how not excessive it is."
The demonstrations Thursday – in such cities as Los Angeles, Boston, Las Vegas, Washington and Portland, Ore. – were for the most part peaceful. But at least 300 people were arrested in New York and dozens were arrested elsewhere, including five on charges they assaulted police officers by throwing liquid into several officers' faces and tossing glass at another.
"We will assure that everyone has the right to exercise their First Amendment rights," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday after visiting one hospitalized officer who needed 20 stitches on his hand. But "if anyone's actions cross the line and threaten the health and safety of others including our first responders, we will respond accordingly."
Chanting "All day, all week, shut down Wall Street," more than 1,000 protesters gathered near the New York Stock Exchange and sat down in several intersections. A dozen metal sleeves intended to lock protesters to fixtures on the street were confiscated, police said. Several thousand jammed Manhattan's Foley Square Thursday evening and marched to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Several weeks ago, an attempt to march across the bridge drew the first significant international attention to the Occupy movement as more than 700 people were arrested.
In Seattle on Thursday, hundreds of Occupy Seattle and labor demonstrators shut down the University Bridge. Traffic was snarled as protesters from two different rallies held marches as part of a national day of action demanding jobs.
In Los Angeles, helmeted police equipped with batons surrounded the base of a bank tower but the protest remained peaceful. Several hundred Occupy sympathizers marched to the Bank of America Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, with some setting up tents on a lawn. Police arrested two dozen people after they sat down in a street during a peaceful rally by hundreds of people organized by labor groups who had a permit.
Authorities cleared an encampment set up by Occupy protesters on the University of California, Berkeley campus; about 150 police officers and deputies in riot gear.
Police arrested 21 demonstrators in Las Vegas, and 20 were led away in plastic handcuffs in Portland, Ore., for sitting down on a bridge. At least a dozen were arrested in St. Louis after they sat down cross-legged and locked arms in an attempt to block a bridge over the Mississippi River.
Several of the demonstrations coincided with an event planned months earlier by a coalition of unions and liberal groups, including Moveon.org and the Service Employees International Union, in which out-of-work people walked over bridges in several cities to protest high unemployment.
The street demonstrations also marked two months since the Occupy movement sprang to life in New York on Sept. 17. They were planned well before police raided a number of encampments over the past few days, but were seen by some activists as a way to demonstrate their resolve in the wake of the crackdown.
Thursday's demonstrations around Wall Street brought taxis and delivery trucks to a halt, but police were largely effective at keeping the protests confined to just a few blocks.
Officers allowed Wall Street workers through the barricades, but only after checking their IDs.
Live television shots Thursday showed waves of police and protesters shoving back metal barricades set up to separate the protest from the public in downtown Manhattan. Some of the police hit protesters as they resisted arrest.
Emmanuel Pardilla, 20, a political science and history major at Fordham University in New York, said the heavy police presence "added to the fear tactic."
Haberfeld and other policing experts said the crowd control was aggressive, but not excessive. But First Amendment experts said that every interaction with demonstrators, particularly when televised nationally, can thwart the goal of protests and discourage others from joining.
"That's really is terribly inhibiting," said New York attorney Herald Fahringer. "Because people say, `Gee, well, I don't want to go out there and join the protest if I run the risk of getting hit over the head with a billy club."
___Associated Press writers Terry Collins in Berkeley, Calif., Christina Hoag in Los Angeles, and Karen Matthews, Samantha Gross, Jennifer Peltz and David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this report.
Latest Updates On HuffPost's Live Blog:
Via HuffPost Miami:
When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.
The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.
"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."
...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.
Via HuffPost DC:
WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.
Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)
The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."
Full story here.
OWS reports via its website:
After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.
According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.
A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.
According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.
To read the full story, go here.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
- Show quoted text -
The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
To read the full story, go here.
|@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)|
Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.