A little over a hundred members of the "Occupy Guitarmy" gathered in Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon, singing in protest against Wall Street and wielding guitars, ukuleles, melodicas, and accordions. The birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement served as the final destination of the National Occupy Guitarmy 99 Mile March, which began in Philadelphia on July 5th. The march was held in honor of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and aims especially to raise awareness for the funding of musical education.
The marchers convened on the steps of the park, singing songs from Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" to Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," pausing in between tunes to voice the movement's goals. The peaceful song-making, however, came to an end when police took some drummers to the edge of the park, and "without a warning, handcuffed one guy," according to protestor Fury Young. Michael Basillas of Washington, D.C. adds, "They just asked, 'Why are you playing a drum?' and he didn't respond and kept playing, and they arrested him." Here's video of the whole escalating incident:
The crowd ran to the scene to break up the scuffle, during which officers began detaining a cameraman in his attempt to film the drummer. "From what I hear," marcher Gilbert Rosa tells us, "a policeman punched him. Eventually, four or five [cops] jumped on him, had their knees on him, and started punching him. One grabbed his leg and was twisting it. But he had stopped resisting, but they kept on hitting him." Here's a photo of a white shirt officer kneeling on his head.
Protestor Michael Miller of Manhattan adds, "I don't know what the issue is. They have listed us as terrorists. But they create the violence. We're not a democracy anymore. Politicians don't represent the people."
Adding to the chaos and confusion, Mary, an elderly West Coast Occupier on the 99 Mile March and an "out-of-work music teacher" collapsed in the midst of the arrests. (You can see her in the first video here at the 2:19 mark.) A protester from Cleveland who goes by the name "Zachy Iraqi" describes her as "really passionate, a very motherly figure. She marches around dressed as Lady Liberty." Protestors formed a barricade around Mary as paramedics tended to her, while others yelled, "NYPD, you are slaves, and we are free! Shame! Shame! Shame!"
"They treated Mary in the ambulance," Jerica Jurado of Chicago says. "She said that she was feeling better and didn't want to go to the hospital. She's a fighter. She wanted to stay and fight. And the drummer is a passive individual. He wasn't resisting arrest." (An FDNY spokesman told us she fainted.)
The NYPD tells us four arrests were made during the demonstration at Zuccotti Park, which stretched into the evening. Brendan Hunt, 28, is charged with resisting arrest, trespassing, and disorderly conduct; Paul Talbot, 30, is charged with obstruction of governmental administration; Jacob Roszak, 23, is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest; and Gregory Adsulf, 49, is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Following the arrests, protestors banded together in song once more and things quieted down. A brief standoff between protestors and officers occurred over the distribution of food, but police eventually backed off. Later, pizzas arrived, supposedly ordered by someone from Amsterdam.
"Overall, the march was wonderful, a great experience," Jurado says. "It helped me to see how humanity is kindhearted, as different people fed us each meal. The people that helped ranged from elderly people with a large farm to college students. People were willing to help us along the way, and they told us that they supported us."