5 Students Arrested During Occupy Wall Street
ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT AROUND 5:15p.m, FIVE WESLEYAN STUDENTS WERE ARRESTED ALONG WITH OVER 700 OTHER PROTESTERS while marching across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement. They were illegally blocking off Brooklyn-bound traffic in the roadway .
The students arrested include Luke Harrison ’14, Maxwell Hellmann ’13, Hailey Sowden ’15, Robert Roth ’14, and Erin Newport ’13, who was reporting on the march for The Argus. The arrest marked the beginning of a 12-hour saga for these five students, who were released in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The march started a little after 3 p.m. from the movement’s headquarters in Zuccotti Park and progressed up Broadway and Park Row before arriving at the Brooklyn Bridge. There was a heavy police presence, with officers lined up all along the route of the march.
“Everyone was remaining on the sidewalk and very peaceful,” Hellmann said. “The police were trying to make sure everyone was staying safe and on the sidewalks. There was high energy.” […]
“As more and more people came onto the highway, we were taking up about two lanes, and the police were just walking along beside us, the same way that they had been the entire time up until then,” Hellman said. “It seemed like the general feel that they were just escorting us and we were still allowed to be walking there.”
Protesters soon occupied all three lanes, blocking Brooklyn-bound traffic and yelling chants such as “Whose bridge? Our bridge!” The intial euphoria gave way to confusion and some panic as protesters realized that they were no longer moving. The police had set up a roadblock a little less than half way across the bridge.
“I didn’t think much of it and everyone was marching on the roadway so I just kept on going,” Harrison said. “Everything was going really well until it wasn’t going anywhere.”
As some protesters attempted to turn around, police officers cut through the crowd with orange nets, trapping hundreds of people on the bridge. Others tried to scale the framing of the bridge to escape to the walkway.
“[Some protesters climbed] the 10-15 feet of the Brooklyn Bridge to get to the pedestrian walkway, which really made me cringe as there was a big gap to the street, and East River below,” wrote Roth in an email to The Argus. “Thankfully no one was hurt.”…
“From people up top yelling down at us, we got the sense that the police were starting to arrest people, so we all kind of locked arms and sat down,” Harrison said. “And there was a lot of speech like, ‘They can’t arrest all of us!’ It turns out they can.”
“We had to put our hands on the bridge railing, facing the Statue of Liberty (ironic to say the least), and [we] were patted down for weapons/illegal items,” Roth wrote[…]
According to Newport and Hellmann, there was some screaming and panicking when protesters realized they were trapped on both sides.
“Most of the protesters weren’t really hardcore activists,” Hellmann said. “They were just people out there marching and expressing their frustration with the current state of the economy…none had intended to have a confrontation with the police by any means.” […]
The arrested students were separated into two groups when the police kettled in protesters. Harrison and Roth were together at the time of the arrest and were loaded onto a city bus. Newport, Hellmann, and Sowden convinced a police officer to permit them to stay together even though arrestees are usually divided up according to gender. They were loaded onto a separate city bus.
“We decided that we needed to stick together in order to make sure we were okay and be with each other on the other side,” Hellmann said.
Newport estimates that they spent five hours driving around aimlessly as the police tried to find a free precinct in a police system flooded with 700 new arrests. According to Roth, whose bus was in transit for two hours, police officers were not given clear directions on where to take prisoners.
“The police were just as in the fog about our situation as we were,” Roth wrote. “They hadn’t been given details on how to deal with the 35 prisoners in the bus and were being told to go to different precincts.”
Harrison described the atmosphere on the bus as “jovial.”
“The cops were actually really nice to us,” he said. “Some of them were willing to crack jokes with us and engage us in conversation, which I think really calmed everybody down, since at a movement like this, there were a lot of first time arrestees, myself included.”
At one point, Newport, Hellmann, Sowden and the other arrestees on the bus sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the officers, whose 30th birthday was on Saturday.
“We all sang songs—lots of Beatles and many invented verses of ‘This Little Light of Mine’” Sowden wrote. “The police officers chatted and joked with many of the arrested protesters.”[…]
“It was an interesting bunch,” Harrison said. “We had a couple students, a working class cook at some diner in Rochester, a Chinese immigrant in his 40s, a couple of young unemployed guys. They were all pretty cool people.”
Hellmann, who initially shared a cell with one other person, convinced an officer to move his cellmate to an available vacant cell so they could each use the toilet in private[…]
The “Occupy Wesleyan” group on campus recently gained student group status, which means it qualifies for funding from the Student Budget Committee. According to Hellmann, the group plans to educate University students on activism and what the Occupy movement is about by screening films and inviting professors to conduct teach-ins.
Harrison said he will never forget his Saturday in New York.
“It’s not fun being arrested and I definitely wasn’t looking to get arrested that day, but looking back at it, I certainly don’t regret it,” he said. “It’s such a strong experience. I’ll never forget the day that I got arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge with 700 other people.”
by Pei Xiong Liu
Would you get arrested for the Occupy Wall St. Cause?