While commemorating the six-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement at its birthplace in New York City's Zuccotti Park on March 17, dozens of occupiers endured beatings and arrests during a violent eviction by the New York Police Department.
Hundreds of OWS supporters celebrated the anniversary with an afternoon march around the Financial District in lower Manhattan, as observers and curious bystanders joined them in an attempted 24-hour reoccupation of Zuccotti Park.
After a day's worth of peaceful protesting, occupiers set up tents in the re-named Liberty Plaza around 10 p.m., according to a March 18 Waging Nonviolence article. Within about half an hour of the protesters settling into the park, more than a hundred NYPD officers and Brookfield Properties private security officers forcefully evicted them.
"On Saturday night, as I simply sat in a park, I was violently arrested with my friends and watched as blood-thirsty cops stomped on their faces, knelt on their necks, pulled them by their hair and slammed them into windows," protester Jen Waller said in a March 20 NY1 article.
Police arrested about 73 protesters, most of whom were taken away in police wagons and a repurposed city bus. NYPD officers and private security officers beat dozens of demonstrators for holding their ground. A few protesters were severely injured, including a woman who suffered a seizure, according to Waging Nonviolence. Ambulance and emergency help did not arrive until 45 minutes after the beatings.
The Telegraph released video documentation of police officers using excessive force during the confrontation. Another video features a protester describing the woman with the seizure's story and the lack of response she got from NYPD officers. A sergeant also grabbed a woman by the throat and shoved her against the hood of a car, according to a New York Times City Room article.
Protester Liesbeth Rapp, 27, said she was among the discharged protesters, along with a woman who had suffered a head injury. Officers refused to respond to the woman's cry for help for medical assistance, and medics responded about an hour after the incident.
"We were all on the ground, and they were on top of us," she said in the Wall Street Journal on March 29. "She was holding her head and screaming."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said law enforcement handled the confrontation and eviction of the protesters with respect for the protesters' rights, according to the March 29 WSJ article.
"You want to get arrested? We'll accommodate you." Bloomberg said in a March 19 NYT article. "If you have something, really, to say, that would be a great contribution. Nobody can hear you when everybody's yelling and screaming and pushing and shoving."
Some protesters said the police over-response only fuels support for Occupy Wall Street's cause.
"Every time they use violence to put us down, it only increases the number of people who are empathetic to the cause," said demonstrator Ed Needham in a March 18 Reuters article. "It adds fuel to the fire and draws attention to the movement. Mayor Bloomberg did us a big help last night in terms of fundraising."
At a March 19 news conference, Occupy Wall Street activists urged supporters to participate in a general strike on May 1 and skip work to protest the police brutality during the anniversary eviction, according to WSJ. New York City Council members and several dozen protesters gathered to complain about police tactics during that night.
"I am here today because Saturday night I saw the New York Police Department using brutal, excessive force arresting people who were protesting peacefully," City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez told the news conference. "We are calling on Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly to fight for our constitutional rights as hard as they fight terrorism."
Occupy sites across the globe are encouraging protesters to boycott their workplaces and schools, as well as refrain from spending money, in an effort to celebrate the traditional public holiday of "Workers' Day," according an
"We are calling upon the people of the world to take this day away from school and the workplace, so that their absence makes their displeasure with this corrupt system be known," OccupyMay1st.org stated on its website.
Diana Petrova can be reached at email@example.com.