The Battle of Brooklyn Bridge: What happened at Occupy Wall Street before hundreds were arrested?

The Village Voice notes a changed account at the New York Times of what exactly happened between police and demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday. Nick Greene at the Voice writes,

The above photo of juxtaposed screenshots from the New York Times website has been making the rounds on Facebook, and it shows two very different takes for the same story on yesterday's Brooklyn Bridge arrests. The screenshot on the left, from 6:59 p.m., appears to reflect what many protesters are saying: The police tricked them into marching on the bridge. At 7:19 p.m., any mention of the police allowing demonstrators onto the bridge was removed from the lede. Why did they make this change?

Why? Well, I imagine because it was a liveblog, not an "article" in the classic sense—and because when you're liveblogging a fast-moving event, you alter and clarify as new facts come in. Some have made much hay over the fact that the item was originally bylined with one reporter's name, then later by two names. Same reasons, I think, not a conspiracy. But it's a good thing in the general sense that people are pushing for fair and neutral reporting around this.

You can watch two different videos of the same scene here and here. anonops has four videos of the same scene here.


  1. Technically the first story was posted 47 minutes before you saved the screen grab. The second one was posted 9 minutes before you took the screen grab. That means that 38 minutes elapsed between the stories being posted. Just saying…

  2. The gist of what i heard on the BBC lastnight was that a couple dozen people decided to walk in the traffic lanes, as the organizers of the march took the stairs to the pedestrian walkway. There were several police ahead of the folks in the traffic lanes, walking several paces ahead of them, and so the other 650 or so people thought the police had cleared the bridge for them and joined. When they realized they were trapped. the sitting down began.

    The eyewitness also made it clear that he heard several police with bullhorns saying that anyone choosing the traffic lanes would be arrested.

    So, aside from the NYT being completely unreliable and reporting whatever looks best, the NYPD seems to have actually said what would happen, and then it did, and the BBC seeem to have mostly got it right.  The police will tell you how not to get arrested, for the most part. Walking on a bridge without a permit is actually illegal and dangerous, no matter how righteous your cause.

    That said, keep it up folks!

  3. while i fully believe that the NYT is trying to spin the event a different way, i also think that using the term “battle” to describe this is overblown.

  4. It looks like Al Baker, the NYT Police Bureau Chief, piped in.

    1. “Years spent by the NYPD brass allowing Mr. Baker access sure seems to have paid off. It may have also had something to do with Mr. Baker reportedly being the son of an acting Lieutenant with New York’s police force.”

  5. I would suppose that the online editor got two reports from journalists that were witnessing the same event and decided to fudge the stories together, rather than running the second reported account separately.  Hardly a big deal, nor wrong given that both journalists were given credit appropriately.  An ‘UPDATED’ byline might have been appropriate given the time lapse, but other than that… meh.

  6. This brings up a crucial point.  I’m seeing it all over the news as a talking point.  The forces in power don’t want you to side with the protesters.  They want to paint the protesters as silly and confused.  This is an example of that.  They took out the part where the police allowed them onto the bridge.  They took out the part where there were so many of them that they didn’t fit onto the sidewalk.  What remains is a picture of people who willfully disobeyed police orders and deserved to be arrested.

  7. It should be noted (as I mentioned in another post) that the second “journalist” happens to share the same name as the NYPD bureau chief. Interpret this as you will. I don’t think the amount of time elapsed excuses it.

  8. I’d love to see a deeper dig into the ownership of the NYT, by someone who’s more knowledgeable about investment and finance than I am. I’m looking at some of the ownership data, but I’m not sure how to parse it. Some questions:

    –Details on the investment firms that have interest in the NYT?

    –Unusual that a 6.7% stake is owned by the wealthiest man in the world?

    –Forbes rankings of the directors who sit on the board?

    –What’s the similarity between the NYT ownership, and the target of the OWS protests?

    Anything else like this paper?: Measuring Ownership Control at the New York Times.

  9. In a free society, the people don’t need permits to demonstrate or “free” speech zones. Both are unconstitutional. It’s ironic that the self-proclaimed constitutional experts of both Conservative and Libertarian strains are now so adamant about them. So much for being against big government. 

    1. All of New York doesn’t stop because protesters want to block a public thoroughfare. I don’t care how large or small the group is, nor what their cause is; there’s a reason why a law exists preventing blocking streets.

      1. But if all of New York doesn’t stop because protesters want to block a public thoroughfare, and indeed very little of it does stop because New Yorkers can just travel around the protests. So what’s so Godawful about the protests blocking a street, or even two streets?

    2. In a sane society people get detained for walking into traffic. It’s not a free speach issue. It’s a get-off-the-road-you-twit issue.

  10. “In a sane society people get detained for walking into traffic.”
    Haha, because nobody ever walks into traffic ever in New York, and when they do they are always swiftly detained.

  11. Yeah, shame on those nasty protesters for breaking the rules and getting publicity. They should just accept being ignored by the Corporate Media. After all, imagine if all those Arab Spring protesters obeyed the rules, change in the middle-east could have been so much more civil. That guy in the famous Tienanmen Square photo should never have laid down in front of that tank either, he was blocking traffic. 

  12. I’d just like to say, this is not the first time The NYT has altered a story in such a way as happens to be more convenient for authorities.  I offer the message string below (preserved in my emails and elsewhere); the quotes from the Times were copied and pasted directly from the article linked to, which you can still see but which no longer contains the quoted text:

    “[to me from my friend, in response to my prior email, below]-
    “The NYTimes must have deleted the line referred to in the text below that you sent yesterday.  You can still access the article, but the line is gone.  Did you actually go to the story and see the line?
    “The rug is being vacuumed at the Times I’m afraid.
    “[from my friend]
    “—–Original Message—–
    “From: [me]
    “Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 8:22 PM
    “To: [my friend]
    “Subject: Re: —
    “So glad to get your message.  As always, so sensible.  I can’t blame the Dems for conceding, but I can’t help wanting to know more about the mechanics of the election. 

    “Per the New York Times,  “surveys of voters leaving the polls .. . . showed Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Bush by as much as 3 percentage points nationally.”  Nonetheless, “[w]ith 98 percent of the national vote reported as of 8 a.m. Eastern time [Nov. 3], Mr. Bush was leading Mr. Kerry by a margin of 51 percent to 48 percent . . .”(

    “–so those exit polls were off by as much as 6 percent.  Is that an unusually large discrepancy?”

    1. “–so those exit polls were off by as much as 6 percent.  Is that an unusually large discrepancy?”

      For an exit poll? No.

      Exit polls have a large number of issues that are harder to account for (cannot easily estimate early voting, tend to cluster results and therefore harder to randomly sample, &c.) than traditional polling methods such as telephone polling. For those reasons, among others, their margins of error are frequently much higher — frequently even double — than those found in a comparable telephone poll.

  13. I can’t help thinking clashes with police and the making of them the enemy distract from the real purpose of this. I mean, if the point is to get media coverage and attention about the abuse of power of wall street and banks. I’m sure those people are happy the crowd is antagonizing the police. Police vs protester rather than wall street vs protester.

    1. You’re right, but, whose interests are the police protecting?

      It’s not like Wall Street bankers are going to be out there in riot gear – they send their proxy, the NYPD.

    2. Until the police realize they have much more in common with the protestors. Any one of them is a layoff away. 

  14. I just received some interesting information from a friend. She is an event planner. They were finishing up an event on the Brooklyn side of the bridge around 2pm when a local cop came over. He told them to hurry up, since they were planning to close the bridge to vehicles at 3pm. We didn’t even start marching until at least 3:30.

  15. Even though I should be used to it, I still can’t be anything but amazed at the rapidity of not only reporting, but analytics by the people involved in this protest. Anon was able to determine the identity mace-happy Tony Balogna (tee-hee) and this analysis of reporting were both done pretty quickly considering there is no traditional centralized organization behind it.

  16. …when you’re liveblogging a fast-moving event, you alter and clarify as new facts come in.

    True. But I think an explicit correction (“Previous versions of this article stated that…”) would have been more appropriate than silently rewriting history.

  17. My issue with the arrests is not that people were arrested (they were pretty clearly breaking laws), but that the situation was allowed in the first place.

    If you look at the videos, you’ll see the police line blocking off access to the traffic lanes was effective. None of the protesters were passing the line; they were all passing down the pedestrian walkway.

    It’s only when the police pulled back their line, after first blocking vehicle traffic on the bridge, that protesters advanced onto the bridge.

    In other words, the crowd only blocked the bridge because the police decided to let them block it so they could arrest the crowd.

    It strikes me as an attempt to manufacture a reason to arrest the protesters. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

  18. At least they update the time stamp. The BBC revises articles, but falsifies the “last updated” to indicate it hadnt’ changed.

  19. Makes me wonder if JP Morgan Chase just bought a lucrative advertising package with the NY Times. They seem to have just given 4.6 million dollars to the NYPD.

  20. I purposefully avoid NYT of late. They lost my respect when they became nothing but the Government’s convenient mouthpiece immediately after 9/11 and they put the nail in the coffin when they put up the paywall. Not to mention that Pogue is the most technologically inept tech reporter in history.

    Stick your x free articles a month where the sun don’t shine, NYT. There are plenty more news sources out there. On my phone the NPR app replaced the NYT very effectively.

  21. I have spoken to some of the people who got arrested on the bridge.  From their perspective, the initial NYT post was the truth, and the “update” was a lie.  They did not expect to be arrested, but were directed to go where they went, and then they were corralled.

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