UPDATE The National Lawyers Guild confirms that “around 100” people were arrested at the protest today. The NYPD’s tally: 104.
UPDATE Arrests began in earnest at dusk after police ordered protesters to disperse. The NYPD filled up two large buses and an arrest van with 60 to 80 zip-cuffed protesters who had been sitting in the middle of Broadway next to Wall Street. I lost count after 45–likely because I was too busy tweeting on my phone about the arrest of a polar bear, a.k.a. the Center for Biological Diversity’s Peter Galvin, I had interviewed earlier.
“Corporations have essentially taken over the government; it’s the big companies on Wall Street. So I decided I’m leaving the Arctic, and I’m going right to where the decisions are actually being made,” Galvin had told me in character. Galvin (the human version) added that he didn’t plan on leaving the protest until he was arrested or dispersed.
UPDATE Renowned activist, puppeteer, and writer David Solnit (brother of Rebecca Solnit) traveled 3,000 miles in his pick-up truck from the Bay Area to participate in the Wall Street sit-in. “Every successful movement needs two things: One is numbers,” he said. “But they also need to put their bodies on the line and create a crisis, which is what folks are doing here today.”
UPDATE After 3 p.m., NYPD officers pepper-sprayed a smaller group of protesters that approached the Wall Street barricades directly. Anthony Robledo, a 25-year-old activist from Queens, was sprayed on the right side of his face. “When we were attempting to go onto Wall Street, the police wouldn’t let us–the police were pushing us back, and we were pushing forward,” he said. “The police freaked out and they ended up pepper-spraying everyone in front of the barricades. They got about 10 people.”
On Monday morning, hundreds of protesters wearing blue T-shirts, pants, and bandanas gathered in New York City’s Battery Park to march over to Wall Street and “flood” the New York City Stock Exchange with a sit-in. Their direct action campaign followed a peaceful, 310,000-person march this past Sunday to draw awareness to the urgency of rising sea levels in advance of the United Nations’ climate summit this week.
Unlike Sunday’s march, which had been organized in a relatively quiet part of the city with the cooperation of the NYPD, protesters hoped Monday’s actions would bring a louder, and more targeted sense of blame to the doorstep of the finance industry, which has underwritten much of the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Law enforcement was ready for the protesters (the protest’s location was announced online); they had already cordoned off Wall Street with barricades before the march left the park. The crowd–numbering in the hundreds, though maybe more than a thousand–carried a 350-foot banner and two “carbon bubble” balloons the size of minivans. It rolled down Broadway chanting, “Decolonize the water, decolonize the land. We’re changing up the system, we’re changing up the plan.”
The protest eventually halted at the Wall Street Bull, in front of the Standard Oil Building on Broadway, at which point the police snagged one carbon bubble over the barricades and punctured it until deflated. At that point, just a little bit after noon, protesters tried securing the other balloon to the warm asphalt, though it would later meet the same fate.
By 2 p.m., at least 100 people had sat down on my side of the street, preparing themselves for the possibility of arrest. (My view was also limited, at times, because I was trapped under one of the still-inflated carbon bubbles.) By 2:30, the National Lawyers Guild confirmed that two arrests had been made–one after a man started conducting an Occupy Wall Street-style public microphone check on top of a bus stop, according to the NLG.
Standing behind those seated on the ground, 68-year-old Gary Cobin, a lean, lifelong Brooklynite decked out in a blue “Flood Wall Street” T-shirt, a blue fedora, pinstripe pants, and sneakers, struck up a conversation with a police officer behind the barricades. The two chatted amiably about special interests blocking progress on climate issues in Congress. “He’s a good guy, he gets it,” Cobin told me. “I agree,” Officer Constantinou said, but declined to comment further.
Later, after thanking Constantinou, Cobin turned around to pay attention to the protesters mic-checking in front of the Standard Oil Building. “I don’t get too cozy with [police],” he told me. “They’ll say, ‘Attack these guys,’ and they’ll do it.”