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WEF Update: Police Aggression Designed to Undercut Peaceful Protests

New York police harassed peaceful protests throughout Saturday's mobilizations against the World Economic Forum, in a display of police aggression many believe was designed to deny marchers legal access to their rally point at the WEF meetings -- and punish them for expressing dissent.
, and police were letting people out only at a small opening at the front, and only if they agreed to leave the site.





After holding us this way for what seemed like at least an hour, the cops began allowing people through to the next pen in a small corridor. I wormed my way to the front of our pen to see two crowds of fenced-in protesters separated by a sea of helmeted police. The National Lawyers’ Guild legal observer standing beside me began to explain that the heads of the legal team had all this time been negotiating with the police to allow protesters through. She went on to say that the reason the march had gone so slowly was that these negotiations had to occur at every intersection because the police had changed the parade route at the last minute. As people moved forward across 48th street, an AWIP “stage manager” made people aware that they were moving into another enclosed pen, and that the planned rally could not take place because the police had taken the sound equipment.





We never made it into the third area closest to the Waldorf, despite that this was the space in which the rally was supposed to have been held. A friend told me that initially one section of the march had been in this area, but the police had told them they could leave and all but 8 people did. Stage managers began calling for an impromptu spokescouncil, and after a long stretch of dancing in place to the tireless samba band, the word came down that we were going to about-face and leave the area calmly as a united group. The 800-1000 people remaining at this point put their hands on one another’s shoulders and moved slowly back toward 46th street in single-file lines. The police moved the fences toward the sidewalk so that we were now penned in a space about 10-15 feet wide between them and the barricaded sidewalk.





As we waited what seemed like at least another hour to be let out, protesters sang, gave one another back rubs, and raised chants such as “This is illegal detention!” and “We all have to pee!” Rumors circulated that people were being allowed to leave one at a time, and that arrests were then being made a block away from the site (upon exiting we did find out from another IMC reporter that several more people had been arrested as they attempted to leave the protest). We finally made it to the front, and were allowed to exit in groups of ten. As we did so, a legal observer shouted not to block the sidewalks or we’d be arrested. Free at last, we proceeded out into what looked like a battlezone, with riot-outfitted police and blaring sirens all around us.





Seemingly under orders to keep the protest away from the Waldorf Astoria for as long as possible, the police turned what was supposed to have been a peaceful demonstration against the World Economic Forum into a tense and at times violent stand-off between protesters and the NYPD. Never allowed to approach the object of the demonstration and held for hours inside police lines, the protesters nonetheless remained calm and attempted to sustain the carnival atmosphere that had inaugurated the march earlier in the day. The only interaction with police that I saw initiated by protesters were requests and chanted demands to be allowed to go to our planned and permitted rally site, and a few requests for information about why we were being held (made mostly by me and other press). All “contact-heavy” protester-police encounters I saw were unambiguously initiated by the police.
 
 

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