#OccupyWallst: video of NYPD arrests in Washington Square Park

[Video Link]

Occupy Wall Street protests took place in New York and around the world yesterday. In New York, thousands packed Times Square, then broke off into smaller groups occupying other public areas of the city.

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones was reporting from the protests in NYC yesterday, and captured this video that shows riot police arresting protesters at Washington Square Park. Watch the whole thing.

Harkinson was nearly arrested in the course of filming this, as you can see for yourself towards the end, when he identifies himself as a member of the press who wishes to document the arrests. The NYPD clearly did not want any such documentation.

The police officer who approaches protesters initially is sympathetic and respectful. He pleads with the protesters to go home; all the officers have been at it since 8AM and are tired, and want to go home to their families. The protester replies by reading out the First Amendment. A protester is singing the 1940 Woodie Guthrie anthem, "This Land Is Your Land."

Unlike the park that houses the original OWS occupation near Wall Street, Washington Square is a publicly-owned space that's subject to a 12 a.m. closing time imposed by New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. As midnight approached, the New York City Police Department dispatched more than 100 police officers in riot gear to push out the occupiers. Some of them chose to resist, and I was there inside the police cordon to capture this exclusive video (the confrontation with police happens near the end).

"This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the New York Island."

Follow Harkinson on Twitter here.


  1. Interestingly setting a precedent that it is better to take over a private space than to protest on a public space.  Can’t see any way that could backfire.

  2. weaaallll i hate to play this side of it, but if they ARE in violation of the rules of the place, then fair enough on the part of the NYPD in this instance.  unlike the last video.  i think it really a dumb way to get arrested, really, far more useful to the whole to be wrongly arrested  while doing NOTHING wrong, or even obeying orders in a civilised manor, than to give “them” legitimate cause, you see what I mean?

  3. Well, to be civilly disobedient, one must first…disobey.

    Seriously, there is a reason that most courts in the US don’t allow the discussion of Jury Nullification. Because it would allow for a public uprising in the courts by refusing to convict people.

    It is most likely one of the main reasons that so many of these arrests are converted from criminal to civil…to keep people AWAY from juries.

    1. “Well, to be civilly disobedient, one must first…disobey.”
      no no I see your point/agree there, totally, I just think.. it should be disobeying the point you’re protesting.  Rosa Parks protested the rule of no coloured sitting at the front of the bus… by sitting on the bus. And then they boycotted the bus company that upheld such insipid rules.  See? focused, on topic,  Change made. 

      1.  As one of the people arrested in the square, I’d like to explain two of the reasons I chose to stay. There are people in that park after midnight on a regular basis; I’ve personally been there after midnight and seen drummers still up and people strolling. I have never seen anyone arrested and have never been arrested myself. This was a rule that was selectively enforced for political reasons. That doesn’t seem like a legitimate use of the law to me. The second reason I chose to stay is simply to demonstrate that we are not afraid to be arrested, and to confront the NYPD with their own action. There was one cop assigned to each of us fourteen. At least half of them seemed embarrassed to be cuffing us. Other reasons I stayed include simply showing solidarity with hundreds of others who were arrested across the country, and hundreds of thousands of protesters across the world that risked arrest, and sometimes injury, and also simply for the fact that I do believe in the occupation of public spaces. We have our bodies and our voices, so we ought to use them to occupy space and protest. It is also a symbolic movement representative of a major goal of this movement; namely, to take back what rightfully belongs to us, as Americans. That includes access to democratic processes not swayed by corporate interests, our civil rights which have been assaulted over the last two presidencies, an economic system which is not just efficient, but also equitable, and more. For those of you who are saying that, “well, the park closes at midnight”: these arrests were clearly not about that. That has been mad even more clear by the arrest of Naomi Wolf for no reason, when she confronted police who were lying to protesters about their right to protest.

  4. “This land is your land, this land is my land,
    From California to the New York Island.”

    As I went walking I saw a sign there

    And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

    But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,

    That side was made for you and me.

    1. In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple

      Near the relief office – I see my people

      And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’

      If this land’s still made for you and me.

  5. Though I appreciate the sentiment and the spirit… would have been nice if the fiddle player stopped for just a second so I could hear what people were saying.

  6. So the police are worked from 8 AM to midnight?  And OWS is supposed to feel sorry for them and do what their bosses want, so the cops can go home?  Why don’t they just hire more cops?  Are there not enough people looking for work?  Or is this just one more place where squeezing another drop of productivity from that turnip is just A-OK?

  7. there was a GA held to decide whether to hold the park… AFAIK they voted to come back and vote tomorrow, with sleeping bags.

    Yes, the park is closed, yes, it’s civil disobedience. Yes, the police are (usually?) just doing their jobs. I think overall the OWS protesters have been models of civil decorum.

    Obviously in this case, the few that remained were asking to get arrested. That’s the point. If the police didn’t arrest them, it wouldn’t be an event worth noticing. The police aren’t wrong for arresting them. The protesters aren’t wrong for disobeying minor trespassing laws. It’s a dance!

  8. It’s kind of interesting but disappointing to see so many different civic entities inadvertently replying to these protests in the same callous, idiotic manner with which President Hoover replied to “Hoovervilles”.

    At least they’re not burning the tent cities down, but still, come the **** on.

  9.  I am sympathetic to the underlying complaints of the Occupy Wall Street movement but:

    Washington Square Park is closed after midnight and it’s not a federal law that regulates that so the First Amendment Freedom of Assembly has nothing to do with it.  There are good reasons for that park being closed at night.

    People live around the park and it is very hard to sleep when people are outside talking and singing and sound really carries across the plaza and echoes off the surrounding buildings. 

    I live in the general neighborhood and its starting to get worrisome that I might be arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, walking through the park or using the ATM.

    After watching some of the other videos on the internet with people getting rough-handled and arrested for no reason, I must agree that this officer was very polite and reasonable with the protesters and should be commended.

    The protesters aren’t generating sympathy when they cause difficulties for residents and polite policemen.  If all the protesters and the police could maintain their comportment and be polite to each other and everyone else, it would go a long way to generating mutual respect and the respect of the rest of the 99%. 

    The protesters also need to remember that the policemen are part of the 99%.

    1. The protesters aren’t trying to generate sympathy from you. They’re trying to generate action. Writing about what you don’t like is a good start. Have you considered sending the movement your opinions, directly. Stop by and talk to some of them. Or send them an e-mail or a twitter or 2. That would be a great next step. before you know it you’ll join a credit union, and maybe sometime after that you’ll find out that, because of regulations, your place of employment can offer you a reliable pension, funded with what used to be used to buy your CEO an island and several congressmen.

      1. I work for a large not-for-profit in health care and can I assure you the CEO of my particular organization doesn’t own an island or any members of Congress. 

        If these protestors want action, they need my sympathy and the sympathy of the rest of the 99% unless they are planning to overthrow the government by violence rather than the ballot box.

        1. protip: even if they protesters goals were to “overthrow the government”, they couldn’t by definition do that using mechanisms within that government (ie: the ballot box)–it’d be kinda like trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

        2. “overthrow the government by violence rather than the ballot box.”

          But the state – any state – is a violent institution. The ballot box is not an alternative to violence, it is one of the legitimizing myths for violence. If one aims to be nonviolent, one ought to try to avoid involvement in the state, and to try to create change through some combination of protest, outreach, and direct action.

        3.  Yeah, and if you were at all sympathetic, rather than alienated and dismissive, maybe you’d get a second look. 

    2. the police are not part of the 99%, if they were, they would act in solidarity, not in direct opposition.   If your biggest gripe is missing a little sleep while outside your window there are people resisting the corporatisation of america, your priorities might need some tweaking.

      1. As mentioned in a previously posted article via BoingBoing, they are the 99% as well. (http://boingboing.net/2011/10/15/your-ascent-to-the-1-doesnt-mean-the-system-is-fair.html)

        The reason they’re opposing it is because it’s their job to handle the situation. Some of them may not do so appropriately, but for the most part they’re doing so respectably. The 99% is someone who makes less than 350,000 a year (at least according to the post above). I can assure you none of them are making near that.

        1. this is like saying that scabs and striking union members are on the same side, yes, its true that in a broad socioeconomic analysis they fit into the same demographic, but in the context of the struggle of a strike, they are in opposition because of the positions they have chosen. 
          as long as they police choose to use their authority to oppose the OWS and other occupy movements, it would appear to me to be tactically foolish to feel affinity with them.

          1. it would appear to me to be tactically foolish to feel affinity with them.

            Yeah, the best way to promote the idea that 99% of the country is getting screwed by an elite is to be selective about who gets to be in the 99%. Brilliant.

          2. This isn’t any more being “selective” or “elitist” than saying I dont want my enemies on my team–these are people who will beat you, put you in a cage, or kill you–and they are authorized to do so.  They have given me no reason to believe that they wish to stand in solidarity with those @ OWS, so why would I want them included?  (Ultimately, its not up to me, its up to them.  i’m not saying stay out, only that in their current form their actions dont align with the purpose of OWS.)  At the moment they are opposing the OWS folks through varying degrees of force.  If someone has no qualms about hurting me or one of my friends, you’re damned right I dont want anything to do with them.

          3. The “team” is selected by economic standing. If you don’t want enemies on your team, then work on convincing those enemies to be team players. If we can get the NYPD on our side, we will be far more formidable.

      2. In the same way that a “53%r” is more than likely actually a “99%r” because they don’t earn enough to be in the top 1%, the police are still in the 99% even if they act against the interests of that 99%.

        Your tone is unhelpful if you are trying to win people over. (And for whatever it matters, I was AT washington square when all of this went down — I saw the people facing off with the police, the police on horses in riot gear)

  10. Abbie:
    actually, if the police refused to arrest this peaceful group as a show of solidarity rather than doing big banks’ dirty work for them, it WOULD be an event worth noting.  Cops arresting folks for doing things that are within their constitutional rights is not something i would call extraordinary–it happens everyday.

    1. occupyordie:

      I don’t understand how you’ve jumped to the conclusion that enforcing trespassing laws constitutes siding with any particular socioeconomic class, and I say this as someone who supports the protests. WSP closes at midnight, and that’s been true since way before the protests. Trespassing does not constitute civil disobedience, but just plain old illegal behavior. 

      The officers in this video are doing their jobs, which is to let people know that the park closes at midnight. The officer who informed the protesters that he wanted to go home after working at 16 hour shift on his feet (have you ever done that? it’s very hard) was simply trying to reason with them.

      Or, as a counter-example, let’s say that I were to go to where you live with a group of musicians, and that we played protest songs loudly all night. If the police came to remove us, would that count as somehow siding with you?

      1. I’m not sure if you’re trolling or not, but ill give you the benefit of the doubt.  My point was not whether the officers are “just doing their jobs”, the point or question is whether their doing those jobs is both moral, and in their own best interest.  Clearly these are choices they have to make for themselves, but given their socioeconomic position in relationship to the things that the OWS protesters are rallying against it seems to me that it would be in the cops’ interests to side with them–this is JUST my analysis of the situation. 

        As to whether trespassing is or is not civil disobedience, I’m not sure I ever made a case one way or the other but to say outright that it is not is pretty misinformed:
        civ·il dis·o·be·di·ence
        Noun:The refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.Also, if as you say the officers in the video are “just doing their jobs”, does that mean that their job is to prevent newsmedia from documenting the arrest of US citizens? Because that is exactly what they did, and if indeed this is their job, I am living in a much different country than I thought.

  11. I’m walking downtown to see what’s going on and I’ll go through Washington Square Park and see what’s up there as well and report back in a few hours. 

  12. If the police joined in the protests as actual members of the 99% (and not just a protected underclass used as muscle by the 1%), this would all be over very quickly. In a just world the police would be perp-walking a good chunk of the finance industry rather than the people pointing out that they aren’t.

  13. Regarding the police:

    If you’re a Wall Street behemoth, there are endless opportunities to privatize profits and socialize losses beyond collecting trillions of dollars in bailouts from taxpayers. One of the ingenious methods that has remained below the public’s radar was started by the Rudy Giuliani administration in New York City in 1998. It’s called the Paid Detail Unit and it allows the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street corporations, including those repeatedly charged with crimes, to order up a flank of New York’s finest with the ease of dialing the deli for a pastrami on rye. The corporations pay an average of $37 an hour (no medical, no pension benefit, no overtime pay) for a member of the NYPD, with gun, handcuffs and the ability to arrest. The officer is indemnified by the taxpayer, not the corporation.


  14. Whoever is blaming the cops for doing their jobs does not have my support.  Apparently you think it better for a cop to lose his job and hang out with all the other people bitching about not having jobs? Ridiculous.

    1. Couldn’t the cops… go on strike?

      Eichmann was just doing his job… (Whoops I just Godwinned this thread because no comparisons to Nazis are ever legit in any way!)

    2. Apparently you think it better for a cop to lose his job and hang out with all the other people bitching about not having jobs?

      You’re naive. The police union would never allow the officer to lose their job for this.

    3. It’s called backbone.  Some have it, some don’t.  If all the beat cops stood together in solidarity and said nope, “we’re not arresting protestors for protesting,” they can’t fire them all, and they won’t.

  15. IMHO the first cop deserves to be commended for how he handled things. He’s not using violence, he’s doing a damn fine job of remaining civil at the end of what has no doubt been a long hard day for him. This is a lot better than “wandering around macing people at random”. Hopefully the actual arrest was handled with similar grace on behalf of both the cops and the protesters.

    I mean, yeah, “just doing your job is no excuse”, but maybe this is one of the cops who still believes in his job. He swore to uphold the law, not to interpret it. And it’s pretty clear that he’s not that happy about having to enforce it in this case. He’s not on strike. Yet. Maybe he will be in a few weeks. Shit takes time to change.

  16. Okay, here’s what was going on in Washington Square Park:  nothing unusual for a sunny autumn Sunday afternoon except an Occupy Wall Street sign was propped up in a tree well, no one around to claim it, much less hold it up.  Didn’t notice extra police around, at least in the center of the park.

    Zuccotti Park:  there are hundreds of people camping out in the park like a refugee camp, a bunch of people in wheelchairs protesting something (couldn’t get close enough to read the signs), the usual nuts who show up any time and place there is an audience, a bunch of tourists circling the park on the sidewalk, policemen around the edges, then barriers to keep people on the sidewalk and off the parked cars and out of the street, then news vans and equipment across the street from the park.   Some of the nearby sculptures are fenced off to keep people from climbing on them. 

    There was a police car parked in the crosswalk on the southwest corner of Liberty and Broadway, that is pretty aggravating because the police are supposed to be keeping the crosswalks clear, not blocking them.  At the other corner of the park and across the street, some broadcast equipment was blocking off part of the sidewalk–the sanitation department would make them move that.

    I guess the police are getting overtime and the pretzel carts and street meat vendors are doing a lot more business than usual for a weekend in that area. 

    Otherwise, Occupy Wall Street seems to be having an effect only through the media–the rest of the city is going on as normal for a Sunday afternoon.  Maybe there were a few more cops on the street in Chinatown and near all the courthouses and in places there were barriers stacked up in places, likely to control movement of the protesters when they leave the park and head up town.

    What do they want?  I understand some of what they’re mad about, it pisses me off, too.  I know young people coming out of college are having a hard time finding jobs–a lot of the people I work with have husbands or wives out of work and have children in their mid-20s living at home because they can’t get jobs.   I think Occupy Wall Street needs to come up with a list of things they want to happen. 

    Ghandi wanted the British out of India, the “hippie” protesters wanted to end the draft and the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted an end to segregation and equal rights for Negroes (African -Americans in current lingo), the gay rights movement wants equal legal recognition for gay relationships.  What does Occupy Wall Street want?

    I would like to see stricter regulation of banks so they don’t require government bail-outs again and I would like to see business all over the world regulated enough to keep this planet habitable.  I would like to see marijuana legalized and people in prison for minor drug charges released so we wouldn’t have so many people locked up and stop some of the violence in Mexico.  I would like immigration reform so the people we rely on to do our dirty work aren’t treated like criminals.  I would also like for some of these ridiculous  wars to end. 

    They should have a list of specific demands such as these that the rest of the 99% might support and that politicians can adopt and implement.  I don’t think camping out in the park will accomplish antyhing.

    One thing:  I hope the protesters take time to go a few blocks up to City Hall Park and see the Sol DeWitt sculptures.

    1.  I for one am glad you went. Did you discuss your concerns with anyone there? You sound like a pretty reasonable guy. I bet a lot of those people in wheelchairs and hippies camped out would be on board with a lot of what you said there.

    2. Sounds like you pretty much had your mind made up before you got there. How many people did you talk to?

      I would like to see stricter regulation of banks so they don’t require government bail-outs again and I would like to see business all over the world regulated enough to keep this planet habitable.

      Are you concern-trolling? Your logic here is much worse than any hippy protestor I’ve ever encountered. “Businesses…regulated enough.” Well, thanks for that. Care to be more specific? You’re the one clamoring for them to tell you “what’s it all about,” yet your own desires for the movement are at least as vague. You mock yourself when you criticise any of them for demanding anything as pithy as “no more bank bailouts.”

    3. this was posted 15 days ago.
      It was discussed by the #OWS GA and voted on. it has since been adopted with some amendments by other #occupy movements. although it covers a lot of ground i think the bottom line is that the #occupy movement is calling for social justice. they are asking politicians to represent *all* the people and not just a select few and that those who brought the world economy to it’s knees should be held accountable. If a man can be murdered by the state on evidence that is questionable then surely the people who ruined an economy can be brought to justice. It’s the flagrant hypocrisy of the system punishing the weak and helping the strong that is driving much on the protest. health care for the healthy. welfare for the wealthy. your boss might not own an island. your boss may very well be a really nice person as i’m sure you are also. but the current system is flawed. #ows and #occupy is a movement for social change. where is it going? don’t know. how is it going to get there. don’t know. don’t like don’t know? well i think it’s much more honest than the crap we’ve heard from the MSM and the gov’t over the last say 10 years. it wasn’t long ago we were invading a country based on false evidence created by the gov’t and repeated word for word by the MSM. that turned out pretty good didn’t it? so i would thank you for taking the time to see #ows in person. to begin to form your own opinion of the movement and to discuss it here on teh interwebs. but can we please get past the “We don’t know what they want.” meme that has been oft reported since the movement started. it’s ridiculous. the system is fucked. #ows is standing up and saying it’s fucked on a daily basis. slowly the word is getting out. and people are thinking well maybe there’s an alternative or alternatives. maybe we can discuss this rationally and sensibly.

    4. It’s not “camping out in the park” — it’s an occupation. Wash. Sq was an attempt at expansion. An expansion that was granted de facto legitimacy when the police did not evict the occupiers last friday (I was there both this past weekend and the weekend prior — a week ago there were only one or two tarps, now the whole grounds are all covered by people sleeping under tarps and even a few pup tents.)

      Granted, it would be harder to maintain the Wash Sq. presence due to the difference in laws, but the intent was to occupy. At General Assembly (730ish in Zuccotti) one person made an announcement that a second GA would be held at Wash Sq at 10pm, and that people “should bring sleeping gear”. I have a feeling they will try again.

      At the General Assembly, there was EASILY 3000 people. If all of those 3000 people said “I am not afraid to be arrested” then I seriously doubt they would have arrested ANYONE. There would probably have been tear gas. There probably would have been some arrests made, as a deterrent (on the fringes) — but if we held fast, I believe we could have made it through the night.

      There will be another chance, and we will get it.

    1. That was a chilling chant — I liked it when they started chanting “Courtesy. Professionalism. Respect” at the mounted officers.

  17. I was there for this. It took place after a large meeting of the occupation where the idea of trying to occupy this park was raised, and most people agreed it would be pointless, especially after the successful takeover of Times Square.

    I still don’t understand why these guys decided to get arrested. There is a reason this park closes at midnight, it’s because it was overrun with drug addicts and vagrants, making it basically unusable.

    1. The vagrants that make the park unusable are the ‘shock troops’ of a political system that is crisis dependent.  Why is there so much homelessness and drug addiction now? Has it always been the case?

    2. I was there too.

      The Times Square takeover was impressive, but totally ephemeral — when I walked through TS the next day, all that remained were the metal gates used to kettle the protesters.  An overnight takeover of WS could have been very intriguing — though maintaining that occupation would have been very challenging. I have little doubt the occupation could have made it through the night if everyone stood in solidarity, but a smaller occupying force during the week could have been easily snuffed by a small police sweep.

  18. Would not the federal law of freedom speech and of assembly to air grievances not superseded the laws of a county or city ordinance? I wonder this as an act of a civil rights reason. I’m not a lawyer but since the land is public tax payer funded land wouldn’t it be open entirely for the use of people if demands and clear intention of political grievances have been shown?

  19. Perhaps arresting these people has more to do with preserving the banks autonomy and very survival rather than the very interesting idea that all the security guards and cops were trying to do was put a sudden frenzy session of customers/vigilantes into quarantine mode. Who really needs to be quarantined are the banks, but that’s just the humble opinion of an individual with hardly a dime to his name.


  20. if you’re going to do a peaceful protest, sucking up the cops’ BS and obeying them just because you’re scared of suffering the appropriate consequences doesn’t really count. if your going to protest you have to fiddle around a little bit with the authorities while still remaining peaceful. i think there should have been more than 14 people willing to get arrested at WSP. 

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