OCCUPY WALL STREET—OCTOBER 15, 2011
Matt tied the black bandana across his face and walked with hundreds of comrades through the streets of New York City.
“Whose streets?” someone yelled.
“Our streets,” he replied.
A drum kept the beat as the group chanted.
“We are the 99 per cent. We are the 99 per cent.”
They walked for blocks down the middle of the street towards Times Square, through the immobile cars. Drivers honked in support. Taxi drivers got out of their cars and gave high-fives to the marchers. Tourists and curious onlookers watched from the sidewalks. The police kept a look-out from the sides, thousands of them, battle ready, hands on nightsticks.
“No justice. No peace. No justice. No peace,” the marchers chanted.
“Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.”
The scene changed, the marchers stopped by metal barricades, police on the other side in full riot gear, ready. Forward movement blocked.
Matt walked up to one of the metal barricades and stood, the black bandana across his mouth. “Do not go over the barricade,” he heard a police officer say in a Brooklyn accent. Matt never moved his eyes from the police officer in front of him.
“Our streets,” Matt said to the cop. Matt didn’t move.
A young man crossed over the barricade and in a flash, three cops threw him down, one pushing his face into the asphalt road, another ramming a knee in his back. The third cop pulled his arms back sharply to handcuff him with zipcuffs. “They’re too tight,” the man yelled. “The cuffs are too tight.” The police dragged him to a waiting car not loosening the cuffs.
A police officer yelled, “Off the street.”
Matt raised his arm, his hand in a fist. “Whose streets?” Matt yelled at the officer.
“Our streets,” those around him responded. He saw the nightsticks come out to the ready. Matt yelled louder, “Whose streets?”
The police grabbed a woman and threw her to the ground, dragging her into the street by the straps of her backpack. The woman held on for dear life to prevent the straps of the pack from choking her.
“She didn’t do anything,” Matt yelled. “Let her go.” He pointed his camera phone at her.
Police on motorcycles slowly advanced from the back, blocking the marchers in. “Shit! Get off of my foot,” Matt heard a fellow comrade say. The motorcycles kept rolling. The marchers couldn’t go forward, they couldn’t go back.
“This is a peaceful protest. What you’re doing is wrong,” Matt said to the police officers in front of him who were looking anywhere but at him. “Who are you protecting? Who are you serving?”
A comrade next to him answered, “Wall Street.”
“Your job is to protect and serve the people, not Wall Street,” Matt said to the cop.
Matt saw another comrade knocked to the ground by police, cuffed and dragged away. The motorcycles behind and the barricades in front pushed the protesters off the street and onto the sidewalks. Many ran down side streets, back from where they came, or forward, on the sidewalks. The brute force of the police stopped many from moving.
“Is this what New York’s finest wants to show America? This is about justice. You should be on our side,” Matt said.
A young cop made eye contact with Matt. “Walk over the line,” Matt said to him. “Just walk over the line.”