Finally, OWS gets police to arrest the people in suits

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Mar 26 2012

Location: 

New York City

Sometimes justice requires a little imagination. On Saturday, when
much of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York was loudly
denouncing police violence against minorities and protesters, a small
group of environmentalists dreamed up a way to get the police to focus
on the crimes of the 1 percent, to the point of arresting five corporate
suits on United Nations property.
Granted, those five were actually members of the OWS affinity group Disrupt Dirty Power,
which used Saturday’s action (billed as a “mock’upation”) to launch a
month of actions targeting the “corrupt partnership between Wall Street,
politicians and the business of pollution.” Police officers seemed
thrown for a loop as they tore down tents bearing corporate logos and
cuffed people who claimed to be from Bank of America and ExxonMobil.
Compared to the rowdy anti-NYPD march earlier that afternoon, this time, the cops had more of a chance to think about what side they’re really on.
As the action began around 5 p.m., the
police presence was focused on the small group of OWS protesters
gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a few blocks away from U.N.
headquarters. The officers must have noticed the signs and banners,
heard the people’s mic, observed the silly improv performance skewering
corporate polluters and thought they were in the right place. But if
they had paid closer attention, they might have seen where things were
going.
At one point, a couple of “representatives” from Bank of America addressed the crowd, satirizing the bank’s all too real connection to the U.N. and its upcoming Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro this June. One of them announced:

The most exciting news of the day is that we have
accepted U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s invitation to permanently
occupy the U.N. climate conference. Our hats go off to the Occupy
movement for this concept of occupation, and we feel that we at Bank of
America are well-equipped to realize the full free-market potential.

After wrapping up their discussion of the many ways Bank of America
metaphorically occupies the U.N. to build a consensus around
deregulation as the main vehicle for international development, the
“representatives” invited the crowd to visit their physical occupation.
As if that wasn’t quite enough to tip off the police, an OWS organizer
then belted out the day’s objective:

Today when we march, we are not going to get arrested. We
want the 1 percent to get arrested. We’re going to have fun and we’re
going to put pressure upon this great institution. … And we’re going to
be peaceful and jubilant to show just how peaceful we can be as opposed
to this violent system.

Police officers then processed along with the protesters toward
United Nations Plaza. But as soon as the march turned the corner, and
the corporate tents came into full view, the officers took off, leaving
the protesters in the dust. Within minutes the suit-wearing culprits
were arrested beside their tents. Not having planned for this, however,
the police had nowhere to put them. So while they waited for a van to
arrive, the handcuffed 1 percenters stood and shouted to the protesters
still marching peacefully across the street.

Bloomberg is in our pocket! … We control everything! … We
have PR companies, the media, Obama, Congress! … I just invested $5
million in a Super PAC, I’m good! … We will be released soon, don’t
worry! … Those are the occupiers you should be arresting!

Rebecca Manski, who helped organize the action and was among the five
arrested, said the police really didn’t get that she and the others
were just pretending to be corporate executives. “They were totally
fooled by 1-percent appearance,” Manski explained. “They thought we were
of a different class — maybe not the 1 percent exactly — but their
perception was challenged of what a protester looks like.”

Seeing the protesters in different clothes seemed to make a big
difference. Some of the officers had just come from Union Square, where
the situation was tense after a long, angry march from Zuccotti Park.
Manski actually overheard her arresting officer talk about being called
“a goon” earlier in the day. The officer could hardly believe that
Manski and the other suits were from the same protest movement.
OWS legal consul typically advises protesters not to speak with
police officers once they’ve been arrested, but Manski decided to bend
the rules. She apologized for the name-calling and was treated so gently
that she wasn’t even sure where she was supposed to go. Eventually, she
found her way into the police van, where an officer actually told her,
“I’m sorry we had to arrest you today. We support what you are doing.”
Once at the station, the arrestees continued to be treated well.
Manski reports that when one officer began complaining that they were to
blame for him having to work overtime on a Saturday night, another
corrected him, saying, “No, it’s the banks’ fault.” The first officer
ended up agreeing, and he added, “It’s the banks’ fault and the 1
percent’s fault.” Both officers then worked to get everyone released
that day, when originally it seemed that some were going to have to
spend the night in jail.
“They were getting the connection between the banks and abusive
power,” says Manski. Much to her relief, the day’s action had brought
attention back to the issues and those who need to be held accountable.
She couldn’t help but wonder about possible next steps: “Wouldn’t it be
great to have a whole march on Wall Street with everyone dressed as
bankers?”

Posted by bryan on