Since Iâve been working on my freelance photography portfolio I went to take some photos of the Occupy Wall Street march on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to start doing more of photo-journalism or political themed projects. Iâve been freelancing for less than a year now and I have yet to do anything like this. I heard about the protest months ago on Facebook and I was looking forward to the marches. I even took that week off from work, in order to be there as much as I could.
The march started at Broadway and Wall Street in Manhattan and continued to zig-zag through the downtown area, or wherever they could dodge the police. Hundreds of people, ages ranging from 3 years old to 80 years old marched and chanted as loud as they could. âThis is what democracy looks like!â and âBanks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out!â were some of the roars you could hear from blocks away. The energy from the crowd was infectious.
Cops could barely control the crowd. They tried to keep the crowd on the sidewalks and off the street from blocking traffic. Inevitably, two to three blocks were flooded with people. Each time the crowd reached an intersection, the cops tried to barricade it by lining up. This didnât stop the crowd from simply continuing around the police on the sidewalks. Each intersection became more intensified by the police.
The next barricade, the cops appeared with batons and then next with armored trucks. As the march intensified, the more arrests were being made. At each arrest, the crowd screamed âThe Whole World is Watching!!â The organizers of the protest were equipped with video cameras and some were even carrying their laptops around to record the action.
The organizers made sure each prisoner yelled their name before the police took them into custody and that they were able to get a picture of each prisoner. After the arrests, the organizers quickly encouraged the protesters to keep marching and the pace soon increased. It seemed as though the more intimidating the cops became, the louder and faster the protesters moved. Each human body they dragged away in zip-ties seemed to add a new spectral enormity to the crowd, as though many more spirits rose in the wake of dragging sneakers and Converses. . It truly was the most inspiring sight. Onlookers were hypnotized by the crowd. Some looked confused. Some looked aggravated that their route was being blocked, but all looked intrigued. Some even joined in with the crowd and marched.
The protesters marched through Washington Square Park where they continued around the Central Fountain and through Memorial Arch.
Then things started to get pretty heated after they marched through Union Square Park. The amount of NYPD increased and having restocked on zip-ties, this time they were equipped with gallons of pepper spray. The police tried to rally up the crowd like cattle with orange nets. As they did this some of the protesters started to chant and some even tried to talk to the police. âWhy are you doing this?â The protesters wanted the police to join their cause.
The march was inevitably put to an end at East 12th and 5th Ave. Both ends of the block were barricaded with police. It was the booby trap the cops were waiting for. Who ever ended up on that block was arrested. No questions asked. Even photographers, journalists and bystanders.
The cops started pepper-spraying the protesters. One police officer threw a young girl onto a taxi-cab. A young man was clothes-lined with a baton in the shin and then was arrested, bleeding on the ground. He didnât receive medical attention until he was in a holding cell,at least 2 hours later. Over 80 people were arrested, kids and elderly, even myself, an impartial photographerâŠ
All of us bounded with zip-ties behind our backs sitting on the ground. We were then transported onto city buses and police vans. Each police officer was âassignedâ 4 to 5 prisoners to process. I have to say, most of the protesters on my bus werenât taking it so bad. Some were even trying to crack jokes with the police officers. We drove for about 25 minutes to the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Park Row. When we arrived we just sat in the bus for hours it seemed. Apparently the police were waiting on orders on what to do with all of us. Our assigned officers took down our information while we were waiting. When we finally were told to get off the bus we lined up against a wall to have our pictures taken with Polaroids.
Finally our zip-ties were cut off our wrists, and by this point my wrists were bruised and even cut. They took our belongings and tagged them with our information and put them to the side. We waited about another 20 minutes or so before we actually went into the building. Before we were put into holding cells, we were patted down. Anything else we had in our pockets was put into manila envelopes. After this we were put into the holding cells. The females were separated into one part of the building into cells, while the males were held in one big room with benches. There were 9 cells for the females. Each with 4-5 females occupied. Even in the cells the women were still chanting and even singing songs. It was amazing. But the wait was dreadful. There were only 2 police officers processing us â 2 to 3 protesters at a time. And each time they called names, it seemed like an hour before they called another. The ones that had a record were put back in the holding cells. When each protester was released, the rest of them roared, cheering and clapping.
I was lucky enough to make friends who I call now my prison buddies and fellow Revolutionaries. They were an amazing group of girls. We talked about the government of course. The bailouts. The injustice and the Greed. One girl was frustrated and upset while another was calmer than anything. One tried not to cry. I told them that maybe this actually was a good thing that we were behind bars and that it takes something dramatic as this for change to come and for people to really open their eyes. When each girl was called from our cell, we hugged and promised each other to stay in touch. I one of the last of the girls to be called. when I was released, I was given the manila packages with my belongings and given a white report of what I was to be charged with (like most of us - disorderly conduct), and told to come back for our court hearings.
Our assigned officer walked us out. It was 4 am and we were greeted with protesters who were waiting for us with arms wide open. I needed a hug, bad. That night was the first night I had hugged a complete stranger and cried in his arms.