OK, now that I’m home…some thoughts about what went down tonight. That shit started like a bottle of decent champagne and ended like flat ginger ale on a hungover Sunday. The rally in Foley Square? Went off without a hitch. The union speakers were concise and practiced and the whole enterprise benefited from that professionalism. The march to Zuccotti went smoothly, the rally there was frankly awe-inspiring (at least in terms of numbers).
It’s after that that things went really, really south. I’ve never seen so many cops in my life as I saw tonight. They’d been pulled from every precinct. The mood on Wall and Broadway was incredibly tense as cops didn’t let us through. It became clear that there was a choice here: either we all needed to storm the barrier and do it up ‘68 style, or meekly leave. Instead, the protesters chose a weird middle ground that worked out badly for everyone, waiting and formulating a half-assed new plan.
Look, I saw cops beating people with nightsticks. I saw a cop on a scooter plow into three girls, slamming them into a parked car. I saw all that shit and I’m not defending it. But the creepy mob mentality of many of the protesters w/r/t the NYPD is nothing if not unfortunate. They know that if they antagonize the cops, the cops will respond, and that’s when the cameras start rolling. And that’s what happened tonight.
The night ended totally off message. Two or three hundred kids wandering the streets of FiDi, an arrest here and there, everyone looking exhausted. Complete 180 from the high at Foley Square at the beginning.
The take-home: they need the structure and message that the unions can provide. The minute you leave OWS to their own devices, things have the potential to go off the rails in a big way. I forget which union president said this, but one of them said at Zuccotti “you bring the brains, we bring the muscle” and I think that’s exactly right if they want to squeeze any tangible success out of this thing.
As for my less exciting night, I mostly stayed in Zuccotti but still saw three arrests on side streets. Easily my favorite part of the night was following a march past Cipriani and watching wealthy, older diners literally look down on us from the balcony, cocktails in hand. That and being in the media center when they got the call from Spike saying that he wanted to livestream from inside a paddy wagon.