Over 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested when they marched across the Brooklyn Bridge this weekend, blocking traffic and shooting the movement into the national consciousness.
Late Saturday afternoon, protesters began marching onto the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, which quickly became crowded. New York Times reporter Natasha Lennard was on the scene and was later among those arrested. “A 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, ” she reported. “This breakaway group quickly gained support of surrounding marchers, numbers of whom jumped over barricades on the sidewalk’s edge to stream into the road, until hundreds of people eventually covered the passageway usually intended for a steady flow of traffic.
Then about halfway across the bridge, the police formed a wall in front of the protesters. The police brought out orange mesh netting and flanked the protesters on either side so they could not leave, a practice that is known as “kettling.”
A little while later several buses showed up and protesters were arrested en masse and taken away to central booking. Most were later released in 24 hours without bail on disorderly conduct charges.
An NYPD spokesman told Businessweek that protesters were given “multiple warnings” and told to remain on the walkway.
“The police did exactly what they are supposed to,” Mayor Bloomberg told a press conference later. “Protesting is fine, but you don’t have the right to go and without a permit violate the law.”
Like the footage of a police office pepper-spraying protesters in the face that circulated last week, the highly visible action was picked up by major national and international news organizations and is expected to bring in more attention and support to the Occupy Wall Street cause.
Copycat protests have sprung up in several different American cities, although each of their numbers are measured in the few hundreds or dozens. For now at least. They’re all in it for the cause. Even if that cause is nebulous and vaguely defined. A number of commentators have been saying the lack of a set of demands or a mission statement undermines the movement’s efforts, but maybe, along with their skillful use of social media, it’s actually the secret to their success. “We’re not happy with the way the big guys run things” is a large tent that a lot of people can get under.
Here’s a video of what went down: