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NYPD on Wild Cat Chase through New York City Streets

NYPD on Wild Cat Chase through New York City Streets
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Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

New York, NY – I’ve attended many Occupy Wall Street marches and actions since last September, mostly working as a photographer, some very large, others on the smaller sides. This week’s casserole march however included a record in how quickly NYPD stepped in to crack down on marchers. We had just left Washington Square Park and entered into Thompson Street when a group of marchers took the street. I was still on the sidewalk when next to me a white shirt cop with a bull horn started shouting at protesters to get off the street. From that moment on it usually takes a few minutes for things to get heated, but other white shirts started grabbing marchers pretty much immediately. It seemed to me that the cops knew who they were after, as I saw them grab some but not others initially. Three arrests happened literally right next to me. Usually I have to muscle my way into a throng of people to get a good arrest shot. Now they were right there. And we hadn’t even marched further than 200 feet from the park …

In some ways this approach by the NYPD reminded me of the wildcat march on May 1st, where NYPD also cracked down immediately on marchers right as they set out to march. On May 1st, a group of hooded marchers got as far as the first street corner before finding themselves in a shoving match with the cops. Last night they made it maybe 20 feet further … On both cases very senior cops were commanding the troops. On May 1st I photographed Deputy Commissioner Ray Esposito, Ray Kelly’s second in command, standing right next to each arrest that was made. Last night it was a Deputy Chief, who’s name I didn’t catch, but it was the same officer who commanded the troops down at Federal Hall on April 16th, where cops and protesters collided over their attempt to sleep on Wall Street sidewalks. On both nights, NYPD scored over 10 arrests. On April 16th a poet got arrested for reading a poem out loud after 10pm. Last night they even arrested a bike, someone for walking on the bike lane.

After that initial clash protesters stayed on the sidewalks mostly, which was probably the whole point of the initial NYPD aggression. Me thinks they really want to clamp down hard on any wildcat tactics before they can take a foothold with protesters. Apart from the bike lane incident and the fact that at some point a couple of white shirts arrested a young Latino man who had absolutely nothing to do with the march, cops were much more hands off. One white shirt even made sure he’d smile every time he saw me point my camera at him …

Most excessive in my view was that a full squad of the counter terrorism unit was out in Times Square right next to the protesters as they were banging their pots and calling a mic check and otherwise engaged in peaceful conversation. Does dissent these days really equal terrorism in NYPD’s eyes?

-Julia Reinhart-

Editor’s note: This post is one of many recounting events on June 6th, in which cities all over the world marched in solidarity with protests in Quebec. You may read about an arrestee’s account of the march here, and multiple points of view of the same march’s first five minutes here. A story recounting jail support in Chicago may be found here.

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3 Responses to “NYPD on Wild Cat Chase through New York City Streets”

  1. EMG says:

    “Does dissent these days really equal terrorism in NYPD’s eyes?”

    Unfortunately, yes. We know this, at a gut level (hell, we see it in their eyes every time one of these guys faces us down) but it’s pretty hard to say it out loud. Most of us are optimists and we want to give others the benefit of the doubt.

    But these are cops who’ve been through 15 years plus of Giuliani, Bratton, Broken Windows, and Ray Kelly training. The objective is order, order, and always more order. I know the history of policing in the US, and of course this has always been the rationale for policing and its systematic (but more often than not, randomly brutal) character. But it’s taken both an academic and a paramilitary direction since the mid-1990s. These people are extremely well-organized, well-coordinated, and they are have been training to think in ways we haven’t. They haven’t read the same books we have, they have no respect for civil liberties unless they might get caught (highly unlikely); there’s very little common ground.

    They’ve also had a whole lot of normal psychological features of the human personality tamped down through their training and years on the force. It’s not hard for their superiors to lead them — with sufficient egging on — to the conclusion that people taking to the streets in protest is a step away from terrorism. Once that riot face shield goes down, they turn into something completely alien. What do they see, when they look through those face shields at us, weighed down with 50 pounds of zip ties, shin guards, flash grenades, body armor, and batons? What’s happening their heads?

    It’s true — we don’t really know, and we’ll never know. But the behavior since November speaks for itself — deeds, not words, tell the truth. Most refuse to treat us like human beings or carry out normal conversations, they approach every march as if it were D-Day, and God help you if you try to assert yourself verbally toward any of them.

    The power of the gun rules the minds of these men and women. Until we begin to realize this and think about what it means for the future of the movement, we’ll continue to be herded around like sheep. I’m sure, as they sit in their mobile vans, watching real-time video with face-recognition technology, reading up on each individual in the crowd and clicking through their social media bios, that they’re laughing their asses off at our incompetence.

  2. randy says:

    “Three arrests happened literally right next to me. Usually I have to muscle my way into a throng of people to get a good arrest shot. Now they were right there. And we hadn’t even marched further than 200 feet from the park ”

    FUCK THIS. stop trying to get the good photo and help your comrades. We will never get anywhere by snapping photos of our comrades being beaten and taken away. In this situation, you should stop worrying about the good photo and hug your the person being arrested, pulling them towards the rest of the demo. If everyone did this, instead of taking pictures or chanting “shame shame” over and over, there would be far less arrests and we would be in a much stronger position to actually command the streets.

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