Jail will never deter the Spirit of #OccupyWallStreet
We began singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round all the way to jail.” Here we were again. Detained, zip-cuffed, but energized as ever. The only difference? There were 700 of us loaded on three MTA buses idling on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Three hours earlier, 3,000 to 4,000 people were at
Zuccotti Liberty Park conversing and eating preparing for the day’s march. New faces, new signs, new strength. Mini MicChecks began describing what #OccupyWallStreet represents, “This is a non-violent, peaceful demonstration” (here’s the official Declaration of the Occupation of New York City). Moments later, the march was underway.
I made my way across the street and walked parallel with #OccupyWallStreet. Police presence was heavy as usual. After a few photos, I crossed the street in between slow traffic and awe-struck pedestrians. I was now in front of the march with other photographers and journalists. If police instigated anything, we were there cameras ready.
After a few photos, I joined the march and chanted, “All day, all week. Occupy Wall Street!” It was amazing. Hundreds of kids, adolescents, young adults, middle aged adults, and seniors were marching in solidarity against something they — even if they couldn’t formulate it with Ph.D. precision — knew was fundamentally wrong with our current financial, legal, and political system.
I continued walking with the crowd until we approached an opening near the Brooklyn Bridge. I ran ahead and climbed onto a structure to get a better view. It was beautiful, breath-taking, and bold. We were comprised of multiple, unique social identities. Social-economic status was irrelevant and race, religion, and sexual preference were unifying, not divisive, factors. I turned my head to the left and saw the march progressing toward Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walkway. I jumped down, mumbled a cursed from the pain that shot up my foot, and re-joined the march as the chant, “Whose streets?! OUR STREETS!” continued.
I ran between people and made my way to the front again. The crowd was ecstatic. We were marching into Brooklyn, something we had not yet done. I climbed onto the divider separating traffic from us. The march extended all the way back spanning blocks beyond my view. I stepped down and continued forward. Several minutes later, people yelled, “We’re taking the bridge!”
I stepped onto the divider again and saw that the crowd near the bridge’s entrance taking the street were being led by NYPD (see this video for evidence). As the march’s tail end caught up, people began hopping the divider.
After a few photos, I jumped the divider and joined those walking side by side with traffic. ”WHOSE BRIDGE, OUR BRIDGE!” was the new chant that echoed. Brooklyn was only a few hundred yards away until the NYPD met us halfway and formed a human barricade.
Demonstrators were turned around and zipped one by one. As more were arrested, the police advanced forward creating a pit where we could barely move or breathe well. A young girl next to me began screaming, “I can’t breathe, I can’t fucking breath!” and pushed people to reach and climb the bridge’s fence. She removed the stockings under her jeans followed by her tee-shirt. She was calm now, but the situation was worsening.
After a half hour, the police reached the line I found myself in. The guy smoking a cig next to me offered a drag and said, “It’s gonna be a while.” I took a pull, reversed the bookbag onto my chest, and then was cuffed.
The police were assigned their four “prisoners” and we were loaded on the MTA bus. We began introducing ourselves, asking where we were from. Texas, Manhattan, Nebraska. No matter from where, our spirits were high and the energy was even higher. The singing started and the bus made its way. 2 hours and 3 precincts later, we finally arrived at Midtown North Precinct.
After seeing a couple seated in front of me tweet and text, I decided to go for my phone. The zip-ties were tight, but I didn’t care. I twisted my right hand around, stood up, and tried. I couldn’t. I asked the guy in front to give me a hand. He reached into my pocket and handed me my Android. Achievement unlocked. I powered it on, photographed the scene and updated my Twitter feed before being led inside.
Midtown North was different than last week’s 1 Police Plaza. It was smaller and much colder. Our arresting officer counted our money, searched us, and had us remove our shoelaces and belts. Then, three of us we were led into our tiny 4x8 cell.
“Officer, I need my SPF-40! My lips is chapped!” set the tone for the night. Endless jokes were made from all eight cells. “Officer, please tell the front desk I’ll take my wake up call around 8 am. No earlier, no later.”
But then, we returned to our #OccupyWallSt roots and held a General Assembly.
A facilitator was chosen and each cell was given 10 minutes to create and discuss an agenda. Topics included cell 14’s faulty flushing, prison exercises, toiletry sharing, legal advice, solidarity actions while in prison, and post-meal food & drinks. The discussion was fluid and people asked to be on stack. Preserving the democratic ideals that have been at the heart of every General Assembly was remarkable. Jail had not and will not deter the spirit of Occupy Wall Street.
Hours after being falsely promised food and threatened with additional charges if we didn’t keep our voices down, we were released 3-4 at a time. I re-laced my shoes, put on my belt, took a couple photos, and received three summonses. We walked outside and were greeted with cheers from the National Lawyers Guild and other Occupywallstreeters. Water and food were given to us as well as anti-Obama tee shirts. I booted up my phone and began updating as more and more people were released.
I thanked the greeters for everything and made my way back to Liberty Park. As I walked, I reflected on the past two weeks. September 17th. Our first day. September 18th. Snobby jabs from professors and industry professionals. Mid-week. Lack of mainstream media coverage. September 24th. My first arrest. September 25th. Slanted reporting from the mainstream media. But despite that. Despite it all. Occupy Wall Street is growing. Labor unions are joining Occupy Wall Street NYC and cities are beginning their own #OccupyWallSt demonstrations. The people are becoming aware of a movement that’s independent of right-left wing political rhetoric and socio-economic status.
It is a movement that continues maturing and as Occupy Wall Street enters its third week, its solidarity, love, and message will continue inspiring the world.
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