400+ Arrested on Brooklyn Bridge

Over 400 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge today.  The protesters say that the police coralled them onto the bridge, while the police and mainstream media report that the protesters were deliberately obstructing traffic.  

Someone from  OWS said on camera that he saw a few protesters walking in the road, rather than taking the pedestrian walkway, which bottle-necked at the entrance.  I can imagine how easy it would be for hundreds of people to accidently follow behind the few who took to the street instead of taking the walkway. 

I was watching the whole thing unfold on http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution in real time.   (Viewership climbed from about 3000 to over 20,000 in under an hour!)  What caused the protesters to begin walking in the road is unclear. What is apparent is that dozens of police officers stood in silence and did nothing to stop them until hundreds of protesters reached the middle of the bridge.  At that point, they blocked the bridge from both sides of the river.  They coralled hundreds of people with their orange nets so they couldn't escape.  Then they started cuffing people and taking them off to jail. 

At least they were much gentler about it than in previous days.  I only saw a few people knocked to the ground and no pepper spray came out this time. 

But let's be honest. If the goal was to keep the bridge unobstructed for traffic, detaining hundreds of people for hours while you arrest them and wait for buses to haul them away is rather counterproductive, isn't it?  Wouldn't it have made more sense to keep them off the bridge in the first place?  The police are very capable of pushing back a crowd when they want to.  Personally, I think the Chief probably gave them a quota to fill, so that no would could question who was in control of the city.  And now they have a lot of New Yorkers upset at the protesters for blocking traffic.  It's also a good story for the press. ~ Noa


October 1, 2011, 4:29 pm

Police Arrest About 400 Protesters on Brooklyn Bridge


Some demonstrators that walked from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge were arrested on Saturday when they blocked traffic on the Brooklyn-bound lanes. Robert Stolarik for The New York TimesSome demonstrators that walked from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge were arrested on Saturday when they blocked traffic on the Brooklyn-bound lanes. 

Updated, 7:58 p.m. | In a tense showdown above the East River, the police arrested about 400 demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street protests who took to the roadway as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

The police did not immediately release precise arrest figures, but said it was the choice of those marchers that led to the swift enforcement.

“Protesters who used the Brooklyn Bridge walkway were not arrested,” said the head police spokesman, Paul J. Browne. “Those who took over the Brooklyn-bound roadway, and impeded vehicle traffic, were arrested.”

But many protesters said that they thought the police had tricked and trapped them, allowing them onto the bridge and even escorting them across, only to surround them in orange netting after hundreds of them had entered.

“The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us on to the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who was in the march but was not arrested.

Things came to a head shortly after 4 p.m., as the 1,500 or so marchers reached the foot of the Brooklyn-bound car lanes of the bridge, just east of City Hall.

In their march north from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan — headquarters for the last two weeks of a protest movement against what demonstrators call inequities in the economic system — they had stayed on the sidewalks, forming a long column of humanity penned in by officers on scooters.

Where the entrance to the bridge narrowed their path, some marchers, including organizers, stuck to the generally agreed-upon route and headed up onto the wooden walkway that runs between and about 15 feet above the bridge’s traffic lanes.

But about 20 others headed for the Brooklyn-bound roadway, said Christopher T. Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who accompanied the march. Some of them chanted “take the bridge.” They were met by a handful of high-level police supervisors, who blocked the way and announced repeatedly through bullhorns that the marchers were blocking the roadway and that if they continued to do so, they would be subject to arrest.

There were no physical barriers, though, and at one point, the marchers began walking up the roadway with the police commanders in front of them – seeming, from a distance, as if they were leading the way. The Chief of Department Joseph J. Esposito, and a horde of other white-shirted commanders, was among them.

Police secured some protesters' hands with plastic ties.Ozier Muhammad/The New York TimesPolice secured some protesters’ hands with plastic ties.

After allowing the protesters to walk about a third of the way to Brooklyn, the police then cut the marchers off and surrounded them with orange nets on both sides, trapping hundreds of people, said Mr. Dunn. As protesters at times chanted “white shirts, white shirts,” officers began making arrests, at one point plunging briefly into the crowd to grab a man.

Charges against those arrested were not immediately available. A freelance reporter for The Times, Natasha Lennard, was among those arrested.

Mr. Dunn said he was concerned that those in the back of the column who might not have heard the warnings “would have had no idea that it was not okay to walk on the roadway of the bridge.” Mr. Browne said that individuals that were in the rear of the crowd that may not have heard the warnings were not arrested and were free to leave.

Earlier in the afternoon, as many as 10 Department of Correction buses, big enough to hold 20 prisoners apiece, had been dispatched from Rikers Island in what one law enforcement official said was “a planned move on the protesters.”

Etan Ben-Ami, 56, a psychotherapist from Brooklyn who was up on the walkway, said that the police seemed to make a conscious decision to allow the protesters to claim the road. “They weren’t pushed back,” he said. “It seemed that they moved at the same time.”

Mr. Ben-Ami said he left the walkway and joined the crowd on the road. “It seemed completely permitted,” he said. “There wasn’t a single policeman saying ‘don’t do this’.”

He added: “We thought they were escorting us because they wanted us to be safe.” He left the bridge when he saw officers unrolling the nets as they prepared to make arrests. Many other who had been on the roadway were allowed to walk back down to Manhattan.

Mr. Browne said that the police did not trick the protesters into going onto the bridge.

“This was not a trap,” he said. “They were warned not to proceed.”

The Occupy Wall Street protests, against what demonstrators call inequities in the economic system, are in their 15th day.



Noa's picture


BBC News reported that the number of people arrested was 700.


Groups can become like lemmings.  This is a case of that-- and then they become vulnerable to the police.

In my natal family, there are some people who chose to be first responders (police, fire fighter, military etc)-- generally in situations like this it goes like this:

Police in Blue--- "uhh dispatch we uhhh have some uhh people walking on the bridge. Over, please advise."   And then dispatch will then call the "boys in white" who will then call their supervisors, who will then consult with the comissioner and or mayor and possibly the PR end of the department.  Then a decision is made and after several hours the dispatch then advises the Police in Blue. 

Hence, the idiocy of arresting a bunch of people on the middle of a bridge-- one of the busiest in NYC at that!  A truly organized police force would herd them off the bridge and out of the way of traffic and then arrest them. 

To understand how a police department works I would encourage you to watch the TV series The Wire, one of the most accurate portrayals of how a police department works.


Noa's picture

Thanks for that thoughtful observation, Fairy.  Here's a link to watch 5 seasons of The Wire online:



Noa's picture

In this newly released video, you can see the police leading the way as protesters follow them down the road over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Forty seconds into the video, you will see NYPD officers in blue shirts, white shirts, and a man with a bull horn ignoring the protesters walking behind them.  The police make no attempts, either verbally or physically, to deter their progress at that point. 

There doesn't appear to be any trigger from the protesters to account for the NYPD's sudden change in demeanor, other than their location midway on the bridge. 

It's a clever ploy if your aim is to arrest as many people as you can.  Cuffing people that you've kettled on a bridge is as easy as catching fish in a bucket.  Only in this case, there is the added benefit of blaming the victims.


Noa's picture

Compare and contrast this video of people protesting the G20 summit in Pittsburgh 2 years ago.  ~ Noa



Made in Pittsburgh within five days of the G20 summit by a team from Pittsburgh Indymedia, Twin Cities Indymedia, Glassbead Collective, and Mobile Broadcast News, a new documentary: "Democracy 101 (Rough Cut)". Democracy 101 is a look at the policing and pattern of issues that arise during National Special Security Events. Made with footage from the recent repression of dissent in Pittsburgh, salvaged from the broken cameras, stolen video and arrested reporters, and independent journalists from around the country.



The taking of the Bridge and the appearance of police entrapment is a made-for TV moment that could well take the Occupy Walls Street protest viral. The footage from the taking of the bridge is pure cinematic gold. It tells the story of American citizens fed up with the inequities in the system, being trapped by police and then arrested en masse for something it’s clear many of them did not know was a violation. Their peaceful arrests only bring more sympathy to their cause.

Of course, this is the one thing the elites on Wall Street don’t want and can’t afford.

Yesterday, an estimated 700 of the approximately 1,500 protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. Controversy arouse as it appeared that the police led them to the bridge, allowed them to march on the bridge, and then kettled them in with netting and began arresting them. The police were prepared for mass arrests, having ordered what are said to be prison buses to stand by in order to transport the protesters.

In the debate over whether or not the police set the protesters up to take the bridge instead of remaining on the wooden walkway above the vehicle roadway, an important point has been missed. Somehow, the police (vastly outnumbered on the bridge from the video I’ve seen) managed to arrest 700 protesters without a riot ensuing.

Not only was there not a riot, but also these arrests were largely not resisted. Protesters sat down to await arrest, were led away easily, some even smiling.

Here’s a video of the march and resulting arrests, uploaded by arthurkr222 , who wrote: “Protesters started marching up the pedestrian walk way over the bridge while others tried to take the traffic lane. For a few minutes officers held the line and then they turned around and led the way up the traffic lane on the Brooklyn Bridge. From what I saw no police told any of the protesters to leave until they created a barricade in front of the march about halfway through the bridge. They then pulled vans and buses up to the back of the group and started arresting everyone.

In total over 700 people were arrested.”

The problem for the NYPD is that regardless of their intentions, the videos amassed appear to suggest that they led the protesters on to the bridge only to trap them. And to make matters worse, the protesters were, even then, peaceful.

All of this played out almost to perfection in terms of press for the protesters: the world is watching as protesters are marching to reclaim the rights of the people. While the reasons for their protest may be murky to some, one thing the world is aware of is that Wall Street was bailed out with American citizen’s tax money and now Wall Street is too often not paying taxes and hoarding money that they aren’t giving to CEOs as huge bonuses, instead of repaying the money like the auto companies did, let alone “creating jobs.” That this is unfair and wrong is an easy sell to the rest of the world.

The imagery from the Taking of the Bridge came perilously close to that of the wildly popular musical, Les Misérables, a story inhabited by relatable characters fed up with injustice and inequality. Les Mis was based on Victor Hugo’s book of the same name. Not only are the visuals similar, but the stories of the lead characters will sound familiar; in Les Mis, we have a man arrested for stealing bread to feed his family, a woman forced into prostitution for medicine for her daughter, and idealistic students coming together to overthrow privileged authorities. The book is full of references to and justifications for the earlier French Revolution, and the revolutionaries depicted in Les Mis are the heroes. It is an ode to bottom up revolutions.

The French Revolution was born of resentment on behalf of peasants, laborers and the bourgeoisie against the absolute privileges of the monarchs and religious authorities in dire economic times when the regressive tax system placed the burden for the nation’s war debt largely on the working class. The people were fed up. The parallels abound.

Les Miz is once again been turned into a film, and this time it’s starring Hugh Jackman. These facts do not bode well for the snickering Wall Street elites, currently laughing at the protesters from their balconies whilst sipping champagne (it’s enough to enrage anyone that they are so enshrined in privilege that they appear to have learned nothing from history: I refer to Marie-Antoinette’s ending), because a film in which the workers and peasants are the good guys will hardly bode well for a Wall Street (aided by the usual suspects at Fox) desperately trying to paint the protesters as “dirty hippies”.

In modern America, everything, news included, is about perception and pop culture holds an unwarranted amount of power over that perception. The last thing Wall Street can afford right now is a film about the people’s revolution drawing a correlation in the public’s mind with the folks protesting Wall Street. Lucky for Wall Street, the film isn’t set to start shooting until March.

However, over 57 million people have seen the musical and the comparison is hard to miss.

Against the backdrop of a famous New York landmark, protestors (students, workers and the generally fed up) marched with huge signs proclaiming “We the People” and American flags held triumphantly high, waving in the breeze. After their widely viewed arrests, they took on the mantle of the underdog; a united citizenry pushed to their breaking point by an unfair system in which the elites get richer and the middle class gets poorer.

In terms of public perception, it doesn’t matter if the police really intended to entrap the protesters or not. It looks like they did. And it also looks like the protesters were peacefully assembling and allowing themselves to be arrested under vague and uncertain terms. This imagery only reinforces the underdog status of the protesters.

The Taking of the Bridge arrests are shaping up to be a public relations nightmare for the NYPD, and public relations coup for Occupy Wall Street. All that’s missing so far is mass American media coverage, but it will come if this keeps up. And when it does, these arrests will be public relations gold. The elites can sip their champagne and laugh today, but a movement of the people has started and it has the potential to derail them from their privileged perch, especially if middle America finds the protesters sympathetic.

Note: This article has been edited to clarify and correct the timeline of Les Miserables in relationship to the French Revolution.

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