Ross Levin ’15 was arrested along with at least 80 other protesters at Saturday’s Liberty Plaza march, part of “Occupy Wall Street,” a protest against the financial system. The event has brought several thousand protesters into the streets of New York City since Sept. 17, including more than 20 Wesleyan students.
“The whole time [Saturday’s march] was really high energy and we were going through the streets, not staying on the sidewalks,” Levin said. “So, many people who would not have otherwise been at Wall Street saw what we were talking about.”
According to Levin, police officers began arresting individuals towards the end of the march, as the protesters were leaving Union Square. Levin said that the arrests prompted some chaos and confusion, which worsened when police officers took out orange nets and protesters fled to escape being ensnared.
“There were individuals who were arrested, and then there were people like me who were arrested by kettling,” Levin said. “That’s where they kind of build a wall of policemen holding this net and trap people. Everyone inside the net was charged with disorderly conduct.”
Levin’s wrists were bound and he was transported on a bus with other protesters to the police station. Once he was processed at the station, he remained in a holding cell with 66 other men until his release around 4 a.m. on Sunday.
“On the bus and in the holding cell, it was a good time,” Levin said. “I met a lot of interesting people. After the initial scare of being arrested there was really no problem, except for the lack of food. And they did take much longer than they needed to with all the paperwork. I don’t think the goal was to restore order, I think it was to keep people away from the protest as long as possible.”
Levin expressed disapproval of what he described as the NYPD’s “openly harsh” actions towards demonstrators.
“There were cops shoving peaceful protesters, just shoving them onto the ground,” he said. “And then there were cops pepper spraying people who were already within the kettles.”
Daniel Plafker ’15, who was at the protest with Levin, said he believes that the physical force used by police officers was excessive, considering the lack of violence on behalf of the protesters.
“Violence was being used as a tool of repression rather than a tool of security,” he said. “They weren’t looking at this like ‘Oh, if we use this violence it will make everybody safer.’ If anything it risked the safety of everyone involved.”
Plafker said that he believes the arrests brought the protesters closer together.
“[The arrests] definitely strengthened the resolve of the protesters and brought them closer together in a cohesive way, which is only going to make them harder and harder to suppress as the movement goes on,” he said.
Plafker, who was present both this weekend and at the start of the protest, said that he thinks the democratic decision-making process used by the protesters is becoming more efficient. Decisions must be decided upon unanimously by the protesters, who have dubbed themselves the “New York City General Assembly.”
“When we were there last weekend, the process of direct democracy was kind of tedious and slow moving, but now, as people become more practiced in it, decisions are reached much more quickly and consensus is built much more easily,” Plafker said.
The “Principles of Solidarity,” a living document created by the Working Group on Principles of Consolidation and accepted by the entire NYC General Assembly, lists points of unity around which the group has rallied. A working draft of the document is published on the General Assembly’s website, and will soon be followed by a list of the group’s demands.
“The group is really progressing in terms of getting people to understand the movement and spreading word about the cause,” said Julia Baez ’14, who was also in attendance.
Plafker, Levin, and Baez were accompanied by Natalia Manetti-Lax ’14 and Evita Rodriguez ’14. Since Saturday, the group has occupied tents on Foss Hill to continue the demonstration on campus.
Manetti-Lax, Baez, and Plafker all expressed a desire to return to New York and continue to participate in the protest. While Levin was not entirely certain about his specific plans for the future, he said he intends to stay involved.
“I’ll be back in New York on Nov. 3rd for my court date, and if people are still occupying Wall Street then I’ll definitely stop by,” he said. “It hasn’t intimidated me away at all and I’ll still be helping out here on campus.”