MANHATTAN – The New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrested 700 of 2,000 people who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday as an expression of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters encamped in Manhattan’s Zucotti Park.
The march across the Brooklyn Bridge, billed as the “Solidarity March” on the Facebook page for Occupy Wall Street, a loosely organized protest movement against corporate greed, took place on the 15th day of Occupy Wall Street’s protests in Lower Manhattan. The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the protesters’ free publication that debuted in print on Saturday morning, included a “Declaration of the Occupation” approved at a meeting of protesters on Sept. 29.
“We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments,” the declaration read.
Vikki Rai, a Binghamton University senior double-majoring in philosophy and philosophy, politics and law, was arrested during the march and taken to the NYPD’s 79th precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was released at 1:42 a.m. Sunday after spending seven hours at the precinct. He received a summons for disorderly conduct.
Rai said the march was aimed to bring public attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“Marches are a symbol of our unity,” Rai said. “The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic NYC symbol close by Wall Street, it’s a place of exposure and meaning. We are spending time and effort to get these points across on behalf of everyone.”
Hundreds marched onto the pedestrian area of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as the bridge’s car lanes. Police shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to traffic from about 5:15 to 7:15 p.m., according to Occupy Wall Street’s website.
Many protesters said they believed the police tricked them by leading them forward onto the Brooklyn Bridge, before trapping demonstrators in orange netting after hundreds had begun walking across the Bridge.
“We saw the group on the road with police officers in front,” Rai said. “There was no continued announcements or blow horns telling us we’d be arrested as they say there were at the entrance of the bridge.”
Tyler Albertario, a sophomore majoring in political science, was also arrested on the bridge Saturday. He, like Rai, said he did not observe any indication from police that protesters could not walk across the bridge.
“I saw police falling back so I assumed we could go across,” Albertario said. “Then they attempted to pick us off and arrest us one by one. Then they decided it was inefficient, so they kettled us with orange netting, so we all sat down and waited for them to arrest us.”
Kettling is a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations by containing or corralling protestors.
“We were in the paddywagon for about four hours as they got gas and looked for open precincts,” Albertario said. “There were nine other arrested males in the van with me. The lower ranking blue shirt officers were very pissed about having to arrest us all, and they made that very clear.”
Chris Kittredge, 22, of Wooster, Mass., however, said that police warned demonstrators they would be arrested if they entered the bridge.
“The majority of the people stood at the entrance,” Kittredge said. “The police told us that anyone entering the bridge would be arrested. We heard because we were in the front, but there was no way others behind us could hear. We linked arms and started marching forward.”
Paul Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York Police Department, told The New York Times Saturday that only those walking in the roadways were arrested.
“Protesters who used the Brooklyn Bridge walkway were not arrested,” Browne said. “Those who took over the Brooklyn-bound roadway, and impeded vehicle traffic, were arrested.”
Adbusters, a Canadian anti-consumerist magazine, made the initial proposal for a peaceful demonstration to occupy Wall Street.
“We want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months,” read a statement in Adbusters in July. “Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.”
The protests have attracted a diverse group of demonstrators. Many participants said they felt connected to the movement by common discontent.
“I am upset about student loans,” said Estefania Puerta, 23, a recent graduate of the University of Vermont. “But others are here because they have lost jobs and homes. Everyone can relate.”
Puerta arrived at Lower Manhattan’s Liberty Plaza on Sunday with an estimated 200 to 250 others. They have been camping in Zucotti Park since.
“There aren’t just students here, it’s a diverse demographic, and its telling of how strong of a sentiment this is,” Puerta said. “The communication will continue, and this will spread, people will come together.”
Aron Kay, 61, of Brooklyn, said he has attended the protesters’ gatherings in Liberty Plaza as frequently as possible. Also known as “the Yippie Pie Thrower” in leftist activist circles, Kay said he participates in many protests supporting people’s empowerment.
“The government should be regulating corporate culture,” Kay said. “Bush, Obama, same old drama, that’s what I say.”
Kay said he enjoyed rubbing elbows with the other protesters at Liberty Plaza.
“This is an open-minded fight,” Kay said. “This is the people’s park, open and for the people.”
Protesters at Liberty Plaza have held two “general assembly” meetings each day, where they gather and discuss protest plans and strategies for upkeep at the park site.
Jordan Eck, 20, of Binghamton, said the group is divided into committees, each in charge of a specific task.
“I am part of the sanitation committee,” Eck said. “I have been sweeping, taking out trash and keeping tidy. There is also the kitchen, and the environmental committee.”
Katie Vitarella, 22, of Manhattan has been living at the Zucotti Park base site since Tuesday.
“We lost humanity and let greed take over,” Vitarella said. “I’m here to promote a better way of living. Raising awareness is our main goal. This is a physical space, where we can open a dialogue. So many people are struggling.”
Vitarella and Eck both claimed that some police officers were expressing their support despite the arrests.
“Cops are secretly throwing us peace signs to show their support,” Vitarella said. “Some on top are enforcing with brutality, but for the most part cops are sympathetic. They are people too.”
Harry White, a 2010 graduate of Binghamton University, said he supports the protesters’ cause but is skeptical of the movement’s lack of structure.
“I agree with many of the goals but I feel that there needs to be a better organizational structure to clearly identify ideas, goals, solutions and operating procedure,” White said. “We need a way to propose solutions to policymakers and the like.”