Editor’s Note: This story is a collection of short first-person accounts from the same five minute time span at the chaotic start of last night’s Casserole march from Washington Square Park in NYC. We believe that the truth behind any story is shared by the many who lived it. If you were there, send us a short account (200-300 words) from your point of view. —-
Joe Sutton - This march was my friend Audrey’s first action, and as we began the march I warned her that it’s very easy to get separated—so I wasn’t surprised that I’d lost sight of my affinity group pretty much at the moment we left the park and moved east on Washington Square South, though I tried to stay by Audrey’s side as a first-timer.
Like last week, we’d taken the street immediately after leaving the park, but as the front of the march turned south on Sullivan there was a lot of commotion ahead of me. I couldn’t see from my vantage point what was going on, but it was simple to guess: police rushed in to push protesters to the sidewalk, arresting anyone in the street. There would be no repeating last week’s free exploration tonight. I rushed ahead to the corner of Washington Sq. S and Sullivan, where I saw my friend Danny. He told me our friend Nicole got arrested. Was John (her boyfriend) with her? Was he arrested as well? “I don’t know,” Danny told me. For a moment I saw Nicole, hands behind her back, pulled away by an officer; I saw other familiar faces from the solidarity marches in conversation and shouting matches with the police.
The march began to move on, and I turned around and noticed Audrey was no longer with me. I knew she couldn’t have been arrested, as she’d been on the sidewalk by me during all the confusion. But since I was the only person she really knew on the march, I worried where she might be now in all the chaos. I tried to call her, but no answer—and I saw that my phone would soon die. I also noticed a missed call from John, and sent him a text asking if he was okay. Danny had disappeared, and I was now meandering alone at the back of the march unsure of where my friends had gone.
John - We stepped out of the park and immediately took the street. Police on foot and scooters, who had mobilized across the park, raced toward the front of the march and we turned left onto Sullivan Street to try and avoid them. From the east we poured onto Sullivan and from the west police ran in; there was a surreal moment when we all mixed together, racing south on the asphalt. I was near the front and heard a police officer next to me yell “Start grabbing people!” At the same moment he grabbed my shoulder and jerked me back toward him. I lunged toward some protesters on the sidewalk and they reached out, grabbed me and pulled me away from the officer’s grip. I ran through the few protesters and police ahead of me and turned the next corner. Fearing the officer who grabbed me may try again, I took off my sweatshirt and stuffed it into my backpack—the hood had partially ripped off in the struggle.
I doubled back to check on my friends, and saw my girlfriend Nicole handcuffed and surrounded by police. The march was already starting to move on but the scene was still hectic. I crossed the street and got right next to Nicole. Her arresting officer was very sympathetic and pulled her aside to let me take her bag and talk. She even allowed us a kiss and for a brief moment considered just letting Nicole go before a higher ranking officer yelled “Get her in the van!”
“I’m sorry I have to do this, I wish I didn’t” the officer said with genuine concern as she took Nicole away.
You can see the police and protesters seemingly marching together at the start of this video. For an angle from across the street with great footage of the arrests see the bottom of this post.
Nicole Rose - Pan held high, spoon in hand, we marched south to evade the wall of blue under Washington Square Arch. The mood was jubilant, skies had cleared and the clanging of pots and pans was so powerful it became difficult to decipher the chant that had begun. Still high off the fumes of last week’s NYC Casseroles Night we were ready to take our message to the city once more. By the time I was able to understand and join in the chanting (1..2..3..4 STUDENT DEBT IS CLASS WAR) I was being slammed against a car. Frantically, I tried to turn around to see what was happening, figure out why I was being arrested. I was greeted with the response of “we’ll get to that later” and cold, tight metal cuffs.
Blinded by flashbulbs, I scanned the crowd for my boyfriend. We were pretty close to each other when we left the park and I was worried he had been grabbed too. Thankfully, after being thrown against a few more cars and finally onto my knees, I saw him, free. I breathed a sigh of relief. After unloading my belongings and some phone numbers on him, we kissed as I made my way to the paddy wagon and my comrades. I was honored to be standing next to them.
Adam H. Becker - How wonderful after the rain with blue sky coming in from the west to start marching for our righteous cause. We passed the fountain and my girlfriend and I decided to walk up to the front. On the south side of the park we started west with the happy din of pots and pans and enthusiasm. Just as we turned down Sullivan Street, empty of any traffic, the police came up on foot and scooters. Most people were not around the corner yet and not many of us were on the street. I did my usual thing of ignoring the police behind me on their scooters. No police said anything to me. There was shouting. I turned around and I saw a guy, whom I have seen at other events, face down on the ground with police on top of him. I stood and watched while hitting my small frying pan with a wooden spoon. Everyone was yelling but I was just watching hitting the spoon so hard that it broke, the head flying off awkwardly onto the lap of the cop on the scooter next to me. Next thing I know someone grabbed me and said I was under arrest. I asked why and told him that no one had asked me to move. The younger cops did not even know the names of the streets or where they were (whereas I have lived in this neighborhood for many years). The angry white cops in white shirts were yelling at the young recruits, mostly of color, about how to do this and that. I told the police that I was in a lot of pain from the restraints they put on me and that they were being cruel. My left hand is still numb as I type this.
Julia Reinhart - 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 … Editor’s note: All photos in this story by Julia Reinhart
Video by WeAreChange.org
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.
This post is also 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 a longer account on the progression of the march here. A story recounting jail support in Chicago may be found here.