Up to 100,000 supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement came together in New York last Saturday.
It was the climax of a global day of action against economic injustice
“It was amazing,” said Zak, “Times Square was just rammed with protesters for as far as you can see. I’ve never seen anything like this movement in my life. This is going to be huge.”
Unfortunately neither of us were there to soak up the atmosphere any longer. We were both in a jail cell, having been arrested as part of the New York Police Department’s attempts to repress the protest.
Zak, a musician, had been arrested late on Saturday night while trying to march down from Washington Square Park downtown to Liberty Plaza, where the Occupy Wall Street encampment is based.
I had been lifted along with 23 others at a protest at Citibank earlier in the day. The protest had been entirely peaceful.
The protesters were simply standing in the bank lobby talking loudly about how Citibank’s role in the US’s incipient student debt crisis.
The protesters were entirely respectful towards bank staff and customers. We were asked to leave at one point, but nobody said anything about arrests or police. Then, out of the blue, the bank doors were locked. Police arrived to cuff and arrest the lot of us.
One woman protester had closed her Citibank account as part of the protest and had left the building. She and her partner, Julio, were rounded up by police outside the bank and bundled in with the rest of the protest.
They had been spotted by an undercover police officer who had been with us inside posing as a protester.
We later discovered that we were the first of 92 arrests the New York police made that day.
On Friday night I had attended a meeting of Occupy Wall Street’s labour outreach committee. Trade unionists discussed how they could provide resources and solidarity to the occupiers—and how the militant tactics used by the occupation could boost their workplace struggles.
That morning trade unions played a crucial role in stopping an effort by Michael Bloomberg, New York’s loathsome mayor, to evict the occupation. Unions called on workers to stop by Liberty Plaza on the way into work to show their support.
Thousands answered the call and Bloomberg had to lamely announce that his proposed “cleaning” of the square would be “postponed”.
The movement has already displayed an immense creativity – and at times eccentricity – that has inspired working class people across the US to take the fight to those at the top.
For that alone it has made history—and for that alone I feel proud and privileged to have spent 24 hours in a jail with these extraordinary people.
The Citibank protesters were eventually released on Sunday night. For more reports from Occupy Wall Street and protest around the world see this week’s Socialist Worker online tomorrow, Tuesday.
Anindya has now been released from jail. He was forced to pay a fine and book a new flight to return to London. Socialist Worker is raising money to cover the costs. If you would like to contribute go to socialistworker.co.uk/appeal?
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