Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Wall Street Protesters Say They Increasingly Court Confrontation, Arrests
Monday, October 17, 2011 - 12:00 AM
Organizers of the anti-Wall Street protest acknowledged that after a month of demonstrations there is an increased willingness by members to confront the police during marches — even if it means getting arrested.
Sandra Nurse, a member of Occupy Wall Street's direct action working group, argued that "the envelope needs to be pushed" by demonstrators, but said the means of doing that are heavily debated.
"There is a very contentious argument within this movement about 'What is non-violence?'" she said. "And because the concept of non-violence is such a loaded conversation to have and everyone has a different perspective on it, it's very difficult to mobilize a lot of people to step up and push the envelope."
Among the 92 arrests made Saturday in connection with the Wall Street protests, several took place after a group of demonstrators tried to topple police barricades at Times Square. The incident resulted in three officers being treated for injuries at Bellevue Hospital before being released. Additionally, 14 protesters were also arrested in Washington Square Park, refusing police orders to leave at midnight, when the park closes.
"They're going to jump a barricade here or there," said protester Brendan Burke, who oversees security at Zuccotti Park, "and they're going to keep this a protest rather than a balloon-carrying sidewalk march."
According to Ashley Cunningham, another direct action organizer, "there are people that would kick over a barricade and say that's non-violent, there are folks that would call that violent."
She said the discussion among protesters had also included the breaking of windows, which took place during the weekend protests in Rome.
For Cunningham, confrontation with the police is necessary in order to ultimately change such laws and restrictions, such as restricted access to public parks.
"Challenging something like barricades in a situation like a public march with 10,000 march, it's not just symbolic," she said. "It's taking back space in an urban environment, which is a political act, and people realizing that we have a constitutional right to assemble and the barricades are impeding that process and infringing upon people's civil liberties."
Some demonstrators argued that police interactions during the month-long protests have made them increasingly committed to the protests.
Hero Vincent, a 21-year-old artist from North Carolina, was arrested for disorderly conduct while marching to Times Square on Saturday — he argues he wasn't breaking any laws. Although this was his third arrest since the protests began, he remains undeterred.
"It actually builds my momentum towards the movement," he said, "and builds my disgust toward the institution of the police."