Al-Jazeera – 2011-10-06 01:06:12
WALL STREET, NY (October 6, 2011) — New York City police pepper sprayed and beat a crowd of demonstrators and journalists who had converged near Wall Street on Wednesday night as part of ongoing protests in the United States’ financial capital over wealth inequality and a host of other grievances. A dozen people were arrested, including one who was charged with assault on a police officer who was knocked from his scooter, according to police spokesman Paul Browne. Others who were arrested had tried to break through a police barricade, Browne said.
The crowd, which had gathered at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, appeared to be near a line of police barricades when the violence erupted. Video of the clash shows at least one officer shooting pepper spray indiscriminately into the air while another swings his baton at the crowd. Another officer can be seen apparently using his baton to shove back the videographer for the advocacy group We Are Change, who took the video of the violence (contains strong language).
A local news affiliate of Fox television reported that two of its journalists also had been injured in the melee. Photographer Roy Isen was hit in the eyes by mace and reporter Dick Brennan was hit by an officer’s baton, the station reported.
The clash broke out when a crowd “surged past barriers” and New York police officers moved in to contain them, the station said.
Around 5,000 demonstrators had converged on New York’s financial district earlier in the day, their ranks swelled by nurses, transit workers and other union members who had joined the protest over economic inequality and the power of US financial institutions that began on September 17.
Among those who joined the clamour were members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union and National Nurses United.
The group marched from Foley Square in lower Manhattan, an area encircled by courthouses. The day’s events were reportedly peaceful until the violence at the barricade.
“We’re really excited that labor is part of the protest,” said Sara Niccoli, a spokeswoman for the Labor-Religion Coalition, an Albany, New York-based organization that aims to “do justice” for workers.
Al Jazeera‘s Cath Turner, reporting from the scene of the rally, said protest organizers are “ecstatic that more groups are starting to take hold” of the movement.
Some transport union officials are upset that New York police commandeered public busses on Saturday in order to transport arrested Wall Street protesters. Drivers were ordered to take some of the 700 people who had been arrested during a protest that was stopped when it reached the Brooklyn Bridge and spilled onto the roadway.
“The actions of the [New York police] … deprived the drivers of their liberty without due process of law,” Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer for the Transport Workers Union Local 100, said in court papers, according to Business Week. The union represents around 38,000 people, including around 9,000 city bus drivers, according to the magazine.
Getting More Organized
Police earlier had said that United NY had sought a permit for the rally on Wednesday and were expecting about 2,000 people to attend.
“I think they’re capturing a feel of disempowerment, feeling like nobody is listening to them,” said Camille Rivera, executive director of United NY. “What do you do when no one is listening to you? You speak up, you take action.”
Participants will not need permits to protest in a city in which picket lines and marches go on nearly every day. But a permit allows demonstrators to do things that would normally be illegal — like filling an entire street.
About 700 members of the Wall Street group were arrested and given disorderly conduct summonses for spilling into the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday despite warnings from police.
Browne, the police spokesman, earlier said officers were prepared for a large group march and would anticipate spillover onto the streets. “Officers will be in the lane next to the sidewalk, and we will try to keep people on the sidewalk, but we realise they may need to walk on the street if it’s crowded,” he said.
The type of activity that could result in arrest would be if members of the group purposefully try to stop traffic on Broadway, Browne said.
The Occupy Wall Street protests started on September 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp in a park nearby and have become increasingly organised, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Other groups have periodically gathered and protested in spots throughout the country.
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