At least 10 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested last night during a large demonstration across the street from the New York Stock Exchange. Forced off the sidewalk on Broad Street earlier in the day, Occupiers sought refuge on the steps of Federal Hall, which is U.S. government property. For the most part, U.S. Park Police tolerated their presence, provided they didn't violate a "no sleeping or camping" rule. But as day turned to night, the NYPD continued to make arrests, frequently singling out protesters who seemingly did nothing wrong, and in some cases violently detaining them.
It was a strange scene at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets, with hundreds of demonstrators amassing in the afternoon, with a core group of about 80 holding steady on Federal Hall steps through the night. A steady flow of tourists and residents mingled with hundreds of police officers, Financial District workers, and protesters a stones throw from the Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, around the corner, a phalanx of officers stood guard over the sidewalk that had been part of the "sleepful protest" for the better part of a week.
Around 9:10 p.m., around a dozen NYPD officers, along with six of their U.S. Park Police counterparts stood atop the stairs of Federal Hall, and appeared to be making preparations to force the protesters from the steps. That never happened, but the demonstrators began loudly chanting and singing, which raised the ire of several of the residents of 37 Wall Street, a former office-turned-condo across from the museum.
"None of our kids can sleep," a woman who later identified herself as "Jennifer Lopez" said. "These people don't have jobs, they haven't showered; they're fucking disgusting." Over the course of around 20 minutes, the group of roughly 6 residents became extremely upset, shouting obscenities at the protesters from behind a wall of NYPD officers who were facing Federal Hall.
"They're whiny fucking bitches!" shouted a man who also said he lived in 37 Wall Street. "Oh boo hoo, we want money, we want cars, we want government handouts. It's fucking bullshit!" Two white-shirted NYPD officials who appeared to be in charge most of the evening, Deputy Chief McNamara and Inspector O'Connell, attempted to calm the residents down.
When we asked for the two residents' names, Inspector O'Connell blocked us. "We know what you do," he said. "You're done here. They're not gonna give you their names." We replied that we had to at least ask. "Get the fuck back."
Later, O'Connell told us that he was trying to prevent "a riot." "You wanna incite them? You want these two groups throwing bottles at each other?" When we attempted again to speak to the man, he swore at us and said his name was, "Fuck You. Want me to spell it for you?"
Minutes later, one of the residents, a short, stocky man with thinning hair got into a shouting match with a protester, and lunged after him, punching him repeatedly. NYPD officers pulled the man through the police line. He was not arrested.
Around 9:40 p.m., police began arresting protesters in front of Federal Hall, some for disorderly conduct, others for unreasonable noise. One woman who was crying was singled out for unreasonable noise. In the video below, Inspector O'Connell points her out and urges his officers to arrest her. The protester is chased down and arrested. Another is flung to the sidewalk next to her for what officers deemed disorderly conduct.
Another protester was struck in the head by a police officer and arrested for no obvious reason. "[The officer] was out of control," protester Bill Dobbs told us. "He slammed his head with his hand very hard, unprovoked, and completely out of proportion with anything necessary." Three police officers kneeled on the man as he was arrested, crying.
Another man standing and speaking in a voice quieter than those around him was singled out for unnecessary noise, and arrested. He did not resist. "I did not do anything wrong," he said, bewildered, as he was led away. We later witnessed another man get arrested for reciting poetry.
By around 11 p.m., the mood had become more relaxed, and protesters sat on the steps of Federal Hall chatting. A sanitation truck came to take out the trash, and a protester was arrested for unreasonable noise after asking why the truck was there. According to an Occupy Wall Street rep, a U.S. Park Police officer told demonstrators, "Anyone sleeping on Federal Hall steps will be arrested and brought to federal jail."
By 1 a.m., around 70 protesters, and an equal amount of NYPD officers remained. The few U.S. Park Police officers stationed on Federal Hall chatted with protesters, and an NYPD captain politely asked a shouting man to tone it down, because there were people sleeping next door.