On Thursday, the protesters entered the postraid phase of the movement with a slate of citywide events celebrating the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. The actions of Nov. 17 had been planned for days, but Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to eliminate the tent city certainly seemed to catalyze the movement’s weekend warriors and centrists into action, as protesters debuted their new, mobile occupation.
OWS scheduled events throughout the city separated into morning, afternoon, and evening sessions it referred to as breakfast, lunch and dinner. From before sunrise, protesters amassed not in Zuccotti Park, which continues to be barricaded and surrounded by police officers, but across the street, in the plaza in front of the Brown Brothers Harriman building. When The Observer arrived on the scene shortly after 7 a.m., several hundred protesters were filling the plaza. They carried signs, finding inspiration in everything from a photo of Gandhi to Jay-Z (“the one percent have 99 problems and this bitch is one”). There were signs that read “empathy” and “tear down this wall,” and a picture of a melting ice cap over the words “can you feel it trickle down?”
Many protesters were clearly prepared for the possibility of arrest: some wore goggles or had gas masks in the event the police again deployed pepper spray or tear gas, and volunteers wove through the crowd distributing the phone number of the New York chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild. Given the hundreds of protesters packed into the square, the protection afforded to the nearly vacant Zuccotti across the street seemed nonsensical.
One protester climbed atop the black marble memorial to real estate mogul and convicted tax evader Harry Helmsley, “whose richness of spirit and love for New York helped build this great city.” While others secured his feet to keep him balanced, he deployed the call-and-repeat people’s microphone to explain that the protest would be splitting into two groups, one following a black flag and one following a green flag. In these separate groups, protesters attempted to occupy the intersections surrounding Wall Street as commuters arrived for work.
The Observer witnessed the scene at Pine and Nassau, where approximately 50 protesters arranged themselves into a sit-in in the street. Police emerged from behind a barricade and over a loudspeaker ordered protesters to vacate the street or face arrest. Gym goers in the Equinox overlooking the scene abandoned their Pilates balls and gathered at the windows to watch. The police moved swiftly, neatly vacuuming up approximately 20 protesters, spiriting them behind barricades and tying their wrists with zip cuffs. As the arrests proliferated, protesters sang “We Shall Overcome,” and those who had obeyed orders to move to the sidewalks chanted “Shame.” Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis, in uniform, whom officers led cuffed down Nassau Street in front of the assembled crowd, received a loud ovation.
For “lunch” students gathered in Union Square for a rally. Other protesters took to the subways, distributing leaflets and chanting. “Dinner” was a gathering at Foley Square that drew an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people (the numbers vary depending who one asks, and the NYPD no longer does crowd estimates), and culminated in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The protest was largely peaceful, and benefited from the presence of unions, which have been a significant presence at Occupy since an Oct. 5 march that drew thousands of members.