March From Liberty Plaza to the United States Court House at Foley Square.
InZuccotti Park, I was handed a harmonica so that all the protestors today couldbreathe together before the march and let it be heard. But under the big redcube a huge papier mache effigy of President Obama is being man-handled by threeor four puppeteers. At about five minutes to two, people start chanting andBarack leads us in a circle around Liberty Plaza once, slowly navigating ariver of tourists that crowd the periphery of the encampment.
Up Broadway, the march continues its sleepy rhythm. I think that it’s the puppet’s cumbersome operation. Chants start up and die out quickly. Some of the slogans are: “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” and “Who’s streets? Our streets” or “We are the 99%, and so are you”.
I watch facilitators text each other and refer to print-outs andnegotiate street-crossing with the police. They direct the front-line: “TurnRight.” “We’re crossing the street.” Twenty minutes later, we reach Foley Parkand protestors yell: “Who’s court? Our court”. As we cross the round-a-bout tothe great marble court house, the front line suddenly starts a new one: “Who’ssteps? Our steps”. A line of police stand on the bottom step of the UnitedStates Court House.
Cameramen crowd to a protestor arguing with a man in blue. There is a scuffle. One of the facilitators calls a mic check. He has “a friend [he] would like us to meet”, and asks everyone to sit down. Myself and about thirty others immediately comply, but the rest seem pretty pissed off that we can’t stand on the steps. The infamous Sergeant Shamar Thomas is among them, refusing to sit. Kids in Guy Fawkes masks and black garb yell and pace. There is another scuffle, and then another. “Sit down!” some protestors scream. The facilitator attempts another mic check and fails. After a good while of arguing, an officer gets on the megaphone and informs us that this assembly is a safety hazard and orders everyone to vacate the sidewalk. If we do not vacate the sidewalk, we will be arrested. The facilitator gives up and crosses to the fountain, where some announcements are made. I don’t hear any of them. I stick around for the action in front of the courthouse steps.
Police form an ineffectualline and try to sweep protestors off the sidewalk. People chant, “we arepedestrian traffic”. Someone suggests we all walk around in circles tolegitimize the claim. I join in for a bit, feel like an ass, and just stop andwatch. Some people dance and play harmonicas and giggle. Then come the longorange nets. More megaphone announcements. We are told that it’s a safetyhazard again. We are told that we are blocking pedestrian traffic. We arethreatened with arrest. Someone is handing out mini-Constitutions to hold incops’ faces. An older woman clings to a copy and refuses to move. She has abewildered look. We are both pushed south, away from the steps. Some people arereally screaming at the police. “You’re breaking the law”, “How do you sleep atnight?” and the like. I am almost pushed into an NYPD scooter by a cop. I ask apolicewoman to please explain the nature of the safety hazard. She says, “It’snot about a safety hazard. We told you to go, so you go.”
The orange nets have finally pushed most of the protestors off the pavement, and the arrest threats are now sounding more serious. I cross the street to the fountain and look back to watch the arrests. One young man is dragged away screaming. An old lady is arrested. She had refused to leave. Protestors gathered on the island yell obscenities. “Pigs!” “Don’t arrest them, they ain’t got no donuts!” We are on an island yelling across the street to the other island. Mic check. “We are now marching back to Liberty Plaza, and we’d really like you to join us”. The Obama puppet bounces out of sight. The aftermath is two dozen cops guarding an empty rectangle of pavement with orange nets. Some protestors stick around to be interviewed. The mesh is rolled up, and traffic resumes as normal. It’s quiet and eerie. We came, we yelled, and then we left. I run to catch up with the march. A drum corps has heated up. We dance down Broadway.
Words by Kathleen Purcell
Photographed by Zack Helwa