More than 700 protestors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday after the Occupy Wall Street protestors steered their march onto the Brooklyn-bound roadway. According to the NYPD, "most" of those arrested were issued criminal summonses for blocking vehicular traffic or disorderly conduct. "The real question is: did the police make an announcement at the beginning not to be on the road?" attorney Wylie Stecklow told us. "And did that announcement reach enough people?" Stecklow's firm is representing many of those arrested. NYPD spokesman Paul Brown told the Times, "This was not a trap. They were warned not to proceed."

Many of the protestors we spoke with said the police did not initially object to them being on either the road or the pedestrian side of the bridge. Joshua James, who was part of the protestors' medic team, was near the front of the pack of those marching on the road. "There were police in front of us, marching with us, and plainclothes officers were basically leading us onto the bridge, keeping a lane open for traffic" he said. "Some of them said, 'Don't get on the road,' others were telling us to get to the side so we didn't block traffic. They all said something different."

"We get up to the bridge's first pillar and all of a sudden we're stopped. People are shouting 'Keep marching!' but the cops stopped us," James said. "That's when the orange nets came out."

According to the minutes of last night's General Assembly meeting in Zuccotti Park, the one organizer stated that the initial plan for the march was to use the pedestrian side of the Brooklyn Bridge:

Direct Action planned for a peaceful march over the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway. During the march a small group of individuals took it upon themselves to take the vehicle roadway that was not blocked off. Immediately people from Direct Action started communicating to protestors that there were two options. The planned route on the public pedestrian walkway, or if they wanted, to autonomously take the vehicle roadway, which we warned them was illegal and highly unsafe. Many people were unfortunately corralled into the vehicle roadway.

In the first video below, a group of uniformed NYPD officers can be seen leading the march onto the road. In the second, the police are several yards ahead of the group, and other NYPD officers can be seen lining the side of the road as the march continues towards Brooklyn.


Bensonhurst resident Luke Rudkowski agrees that the police initially led protestors onto the bridge, only to arrest them later. "The cops allowed us to be on the road, I just wanted to get on the pedestrian side so I had a better angle to film," he said. "It was fine until they stopped us and brought the nets out. These two older men just sat down, and that's when they wouldn't let anyone leave and just picked people out and arrested them."

"We were given the bum's rush," said Long Island resident Walter Gafforio, who was watching the road from the pedestrian side. Gafforio, a retired postal worker and Vietnam veteran, said that the police wouldn't let anyone leave once the nets were up down on the road. "There was absolutely no resisting arrest that I saw, and they just had them trapped in there."

The NYPD then used MTA buses and buses they had moved down before the demonstration from Rikers Island, to process all the arrests. "It seems to me that if the NYPD wanted to stop someone from walking, they'd stop them," Stecklow says. "This looked like a plan to entice people onto the roadway. There was a huge police presence there and they had buses ready. It's like the 2004 [Republican] convention: sometimes they want to make mass arrests."

[UPDATE] The Times has uploaded two videos released by the NYPD. The first shows a senior officer telling the crowd, "I am ordering you to leave this roadway now, if you do so voluntarily, no charges will be placed against you. If you refuse to leave, you will be placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct." The second shows him announcing that all the protestors on the bridge will be arrested.