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Voices from the Brooklyn Bridge Mass Arrest

Nikki Saint Bautista Oct 3, 2011

Coordinated actions over the weekend saw both an anti-police brutality march of hundreds against police brutality on Friday, September 30th and the mass arrest of over 700 on Saturday, Oct. 1, as anti-corporatist marchers attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Sources report over 2500 people attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge with the marching crowd soon spilling into car traffic. With exits from the bridge limited, marchers were forced to a standstill in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. A tense stand-off with police ended in the methodical arrest and processing of hundreds of protesters. By 3 a.m Sunday morning, most of the 700 who were arrested for blocking traffic had been released, except those who have outstanding warrants, according to Julie Jamora whose brother, Roberto Jamora, was arrested around 6:30 p.m.

Beatrice Bonanno, 24 years old, a nanny who lives in Brooklyn was arrested and released by 11:15 p.m. Bonanno, who started marching at 3 p.m, was charged with disorderly conduct and given a summons.

Bonanno, who was at the back of the line, says she neither witnessed anyone provoking the police, nor saw the police brutalizing protesters. “Some people got an attitude when they complained about how tight the handcuffs were. I saw some people whose hands were turning purple.” Saturday was rainy with temperatures in the 60s and 50s.
“We’re fighting for them [the police] as well, they’re not the 1 percent of rich people that are fucking everything up here. Being aggressive against them in this context is not appropriate,” she said.

Jon Zeftel, 24 years old, also a nanny, walked across the entire bridge on the pedestrian walkway and was not arrested. Zeftel is originally from Buffalo but currently lives in New York.

“I just kept following the people in front of me because they took the pedestrian way. As it started bottlenecking, everyone started to get a little panicky, hanging over the side and looking down. I heard people were getting arrested. I kept asking myself, ‘Why are people on the road?’” he said.

When asked why she decided to walk on the road, Bonanno said, “Well, I truly feel conflicted about it because it stops traffic and it gets attention.” On the other hand, “[We are] showing [our] critical mass and we’re here for a reason,” she said.

Zeftel and Bonanno, who did not know each other at the time, were both at the end of the line and reported seeing a man trying to get a head count of people walking across the bridge.

“I was at the end of the line and there was a dude counting. When I passed, the guy yelled ‘2,500!’ so you can put the rough estimate to 2,600 to 2,700, maybe more,” Zeftel said.

“We get to the bridge and we’re on the footpath and they start to lead us to the road. At first we were at one lane and some people are jumping off the pedestrian way onto the road and others were jumping onto the pedestrian walkway. Eventually the bridge was totally blocked off. The police never tried to stop us from entering the bridge [at that point], so I don’t know if the people in the front were approached by the police [and warned]. A large majority did not know what was going to happen and people were asking what was going on,” Bonanno said.

Ian Bradley, 28 years old, was also on the road, but climbed onto the walkway to avoid arrest.

“Then, seemingly under pressure from police and unsure of what to do next, the crowd began to sit down.  It didn’t appear that moving in any direction was an option, and nets were put up at both ends.  Many people sat, but then stood again.  I sat for a moment, but the energy seemed like it was nearing a breaking point, and that at any moment the police might decide to take drastic measures.  I saw a bunch of people climbing the scaffolding and decided to do the same.  Once I was at the top I was helped over the edge onto the walkway by (the guy we know who got arrested the first time and busted his leg up).  I filmed from above as police began arresting everyone one by one.  They were alot less harsh than last weekend for the most part, but there were reports of them taking the red hoodie off of one protester immediately so he couldn’t be identified on film.  Several people were handled very roughly,” Bradley said.

John W. an organizer for Plumbers Local 1 of New York City marched with OWS Saturday but felt the arrests were self-inflicted.

“I watched what happened. A bunch of idiots just ran off into the bridge.” John was at Liberty Plaza at midnight with other union members showing some occupiers how he thinks people should march next Wednesday when several labor unions are scheduled to link up with OWS. John organized the onlookers into rows of three people and practiced marching several feet in this kind of order.

A man from another union said, “Trying a little more technique can’t help or hurt. There are a lot of new workers here.”

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