Report: Occupy the Brooklyn Bridge

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I'm wet, it's late, but I wanted to at least get the photos up tonight. As you've read already, Occupy Wall Street walked across the Brooklyn Bridge this afternoon. I didn't know where we would be going when I showed up with my friends for the march at 3pm--the destination was "secret". But when 3000 of us passed City Hall and kept going, it became obvious--we were going to Brooklyn!

Marches are all about optics. I know this from all the demonstrations I join in Hong Kong. You march for PR--to get your profile out there. So the choice of the Brooklyn Bridge, on a busy Saturday afternoon, with plenty of bike riders, casual strollers, tourists, and motorists on the way was a genius move.

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I was near the back of the march, about three quarters of the length behind the leaders. So I didn't take the wrong turn onto the bridge roadway that the 400 700 marchers who got arrested did. (Amazingly--and probably because one of their stringers, Natasha Lennard, got arrested, the New York Times has good and accurate coverage of the incident.)

UPDATE: It was accurate, but looks like some itchy-fingered NYT editor decided to do something about that!.

I marched on the pedestrian walkway, with most of the others. When the word came that the group below us was being kettled and arrested, a hue and cry rose up, and some people started climbing the bridge cables (not a good idea, but damn, a great image!)

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My friends and I made it to the Brooklyn side okay--we ended up with about 350 other marchers in Cadman Plaza, a lovely 19th century park. What I didn't find out until later is that several hundred people behind me also got kettled and barred from going all the way to Brooklyn. So I was among the lucky marchers in the middle.

It started to rain, hard. The group decided--in a "General Assembly"--to march over the Manhattan Bridge back to Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Since I live in Brooklyn, I decided to come home.

But as I was leaving the park in Brooklyn, an extraordinary thing happened. A policeman called to me. "How's it going?" he asked. Nonplussed I said, well, okay, thanks. Then I asked him if the police were going to surround the park and arrest us all (this is what we had heard the "white shirts" saying on their radios). He said, "No Way! They won't arrest you for sure." [#33]

I asked him if he was Community Affairs, and he said that he was a Lieutenant (a white shirt officer), but had been pressed into service as a CA cop for the day. Then he let loose and let it all come out. He sympathised with the marchers. He had kids, he was worried about their education. About genetically modified food. About the way America was going.

I listened to him, half incredulous, half thrilled. Almost as thrilled as I was, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, hearing the car horns and the cheers of passing motorists--all of them African American. Some hung out of the window, raised fists, cheered.

I have some reservations about what's going on in Zuccotti Park, and I will write about that tomorrow. But tonight, I'm going to hold tight to the memory of that cop, and those motorists' cheers.

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And who says print is dead!

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