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"Shut Down Wall Street" Results In Tension, Arrests

The protesters named their Thursday morning operation "Shut Down Wall Street," even though it only called for people to demonstrate in front of the New York Stock Exchange. In the end, protesters did neither because thousands of cops were mobilized to move protesters away from the exchange. In the process, more than 200 people got arrested, and more than half a dozen officers were injured.

The tension between protesters and police erupted in the hour before the exchange opened, a block and a half away, at Pine and William Streets. There, when a line of police dozens strong, in riot gear, kept when some protesters away from the stock exchange, some protesters pulled out fake police crime scene tape, and tried to extend it across William Street. Police who had tried to keep the demonstrators on the sidewalk swooped in, arresting at least ten people on the scene, including one in a wheelchair, and took them in a van to a holding center.

Cops also took into custody anyone they felt was not moving out of the way fast enough for officers to set up a two-block perimeter east of the stock exchange.

The exchange's opening bell rang without incident, and without hundreds of protesters anywhere within earshot, since, after the 9:30 opening bell, police extended the perimeter by yet another block. Anybody in the way got hauled away.

At the edge of the newly-expanded perimeter, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, routinely referred to by his title's initials, DCPI, just happened to be there. PIX11 News asked him why there were more arrests, some of which were of people who were merely standing on the sidewalk, as the police on the scene had asked.

"People are trying to leave and go to work, and come back and forth," DCPI Paul Browne said. "They're blocking the street and the sidewalk. We're trying to clear it out."

Indeed, in the blocks surrounding the stock exchange, nobody was allowed to pass on the sidewalks or across streets without showing identification proving they had business in the area.

However, one woman whose business it was to report on the protest ended up getting arrested while doing her job. Faith Laugier, a reporter for WBAI Radio, was recorded on video by witnesses as police -- including four-star Chief of Department Chief Joseph Esposito -- subdued her both on the ground and against a wall, and handcuffed her. "She's a journalist! She's a journalist!" cameraman Evan Shamar can clearly be heard screaming on a YouTube video he shot of the arrest, while his colleague was being taken down.

Another eyewitness decribed what happened to PIX11 News. "We couldn't go anywhere," protester Jacob Lawrence said about orders police had just given the group that included Laugier to move off of a sidewalk that was filled to capacity. "They pulled her down, her cuffs were so tight her hands were turning blue."

After the arrest, Lawrence and a few hundred other protesters kept marching, outside of the perimeter set up to ensure that people in the Financial District could safely get to and from their jobs. That perimeter extended to the famous statue of a bull on Broadway at he north end of Bowling Green.

As protesters passed the landmark that was ringed by at least seven cops, they yelled in unison, "End the bull***, end the bull***!" Officers on the scene looked on as the growing group of demonstrators kept walking north, to Zuccotti Park, the place where, of course, the entire Occupy Wall Street movement had begun exactly two months before to the day.

In the one acre park, tensions rose as protesters removed police barricades that had been set up after cops had evicted demonstrators in the wee hours of Tuesday morning from a round-the-clock encampment protesters had set up there.

A police line three officers thick and dozens of officers across countered the barricade-moving protesters with an unmoving wall of blue. Facing the police were hundreds of protesters tightly crammed, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for something to happen.

Protesters slowly moved away, as police chose to remove some barricades that demonstrators had detached from a line of the metal barriers.

A tense situation managed to calm down on both sides, but only for the time being. Later on in the day, around 2:00 PM, when cops re-erected the barricade fence, some protesters who tried to stop it not only got arrested, one got hurt and was bleeding from the head. Also, a police officer got cut from a sharp object thrown at him, and required twenty stitches.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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