Oh, the things you catch on a late lunch break …
Wall Street was on lockdown on Monday with barricades, cops and piles of horse poop from the mounted unit while two blocks south on Broadway, hundreds of protesters were gathering and planning the follow-up to Sunday’s huge People’s Climate March, building on the momentum of the estimated 300,000 people there who joined the U.N. Secretary General, Al Gore and various celebs. For the #FloodWallStreet action yesterday, some provocative street theater was planned. Armed with a notepad and cellphone, I was in reporter mode.
Armed with signs, slogans, costumes and a chant sheet which included anti-capitalist and pro-environment rewrites of everything from “Happy Birthday” to “I Love Rock ’N’ Roll,” “We Will Rock You” and “It’s Getting Hot In Here,” the PCM group gathered at 9 a.m. and later had a moment of silence around 1 p.m. to honor victims of climate change and then began the waiting game of a few hours to see when they’d start their march. Various protesters and policemen quizzed weren’t sure.
Around 3 p.m., just after I arrived, a woman in the middle of the crowd led a series of chants, which were relayed and repeated throughout the crowd, but I couldn’t keep up on the chant sheet I was handed. The protesters were pumped and ready, though, and at about 3:45 p.m., they got to their feet with brass bands blaring behind them and picket signs and banners floating around everywhere. They were on the move. Just ahead of them was a wall of camera-totting reporters and an NYPD Legal Team and members of the National Lawyers Guild’s Legal Observer program to note any wrongdoing done to the protesters.
Just before 4 p.m., the march was in front of Trinity Church, about to descend on Wall Street except for piles of barricades and dozens of officers keeping protesters back. Almost right away, the marchers on the street and the police on the sidewalk were struggling in a tug of war with the steel barricades, but the cops held their ground. I stood on the sidewalk about 20 feet from where the police held back the crowd.
At one point, I saw the police spray the crowd with a hand-held bottle that news station NY1 later said was pepper gas. One colorfully attired gent from the crowd managed to jump the gates, but was quickly subdued and cuffed. Otherwise, a tense standoff ensued with some of the protesters unsuccessfully trying to engage and argue with the police there. Some of the crowd squatted on the ground to begin their peaceful sit-in, while on the sidewalk, a brass band fittingly starting to play Sly & the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me To Stay” (oddly enough, though they knew the tune, I had to tell them whose song they were covering).
As the police kept pushing back the sidewalk crowd and my cellphone was dying and no new action came about for a half hour, I turned around and made it back to my job, having to walk about 10 extra blocks to make it around the barricades on all the other streets. Only later did I learn that dozens would be arrested around the evening time for their sit-in and for not leaving the street when ordered.
This morning, the barricades were still all around Wall Street with a few officers manning them at Broadway, but there were no protesters to be seen.
Jason Gross is the social media manager for TheBlot Magazine.