It is now confirmed that some 700 people were arrested yesterday in a protest by the Occupy Wallstreet crowd. It sounds like the police consciously led people into a situation where protesters would be penned in and mass arrested. This is similar to what was done by police in other mass arrest situations, particularly in Minneapolis during the last Republican National Convention.
One arrestee who got out of jail sometime in the middle of the early morning hours told me about how she was held after being arrested on a city bus which had been commandeered by police. It sounds like the police planned a mass arrest – that is why they took ten or more vans from Rikers Island. But it then sounds like they went even bigger than they had prepared for in their arrests – so they commandeered city buses.
One person was pretty sure that they police literally got on the buses and told the passengers to get off of them, that they were being taken over. Whether that was done or not, definitely they were used to hold protesters after arrest. My friend who was released told me how they were held on these city buses and driven through China town. The buses are, of course, lit up from within and so as they were stuck in traffic on the busy streets they would stand up in front of the window, turn around, and show their handcuffs. The passersby were shocked; their faces transformed as they came to understand that they were not simply watching a bus of young people but a bus of young people who were being detained.
Meanwhile, down at the Occupy Wallstreet Liberty Park, spirits were high last night. A feeling of momentum was tangible. People continue to show up – on their own or with one or two friends – from across the country. A young white man who came down from Connecticut told me, “I've been waiting for this since 2003.” He went on to describe the way that his homestate of Ohio has lost many of the factory jobs, how the city of Detroit has been abandoned, and how he is facing financial insecurity at a level no one in his family has ever experienced.
A white woman from South Carolina was almost too excited to be on the spot with so many others to explain what in particular led her to be there. She kept saying it was, “just everything,” and clearly conveyed a feeling of overwhelming excitement to be out in the street, surrounded by strangers who were – like her – willing to upset the routine of their lives to stand up against “the 1%” who are “screwing everyone else.”
A group of young Black high school students had come to meet up with their history teacher and other classmates but had arrived a little late. “On the way here, we kept getting texts from our friends that they were being arrested, that they were in cuffs, that our history teacher was arrested too.”
A very young group of white youth had come up from Philadelphia just to be on the scene for a few hours. They were planning on going back that night (it was already late and they were still down on Wall Street) so that they could join up with the growing occupation taking place in Philly.
Everyone I spoke to eagerly took a copy – and many gave small donations – of the special issue of Revolution Newspaper featuring excerpts from Bob Avakian's new book, BAsics. They were interested to hear that there was a leadership and a plan for how the whole world could be reorganized after the revolution, how such a revolution could be successful, and that there was a movement being built for this revolution right now. They gave their emails and we made plans to get into some group discussions of the quotes from Avakian in the park today.
One discussion that I had repeatedly was on the question of “outsourcing” and “sending our jobs overseas.” Whenever anyone would say something like that, I would pose that when those jobs got overseas, the same capitalists would then super-exploit people in other parts of the world. The same system that is making the lives of people in this country increasingly unlivable is plundering, waging wars of imperialist domination against, and super-exploiting through their sweatshops and agribusiness and such throughout the rest of the world. It is a worldwide system of imperialism and we need a total revolution, a communist revolution, to get rid of this system and bring a much better system into being in its place. People were very open to this, almost to a person (among those I spoke to) there was an immediate gravitation to seeing their interests bound up with the interests of those exploited around the world. But, it was not on their minds until it was brought up.
There was a lot of other discussion – including over whether the police are part of the 99% (hint: they are NOT! Their role is to protect and serve the system that rules over the people. That is why they were ARRESTING people.) A lot of folks didn't know what to expect next, or even what their own plans would be or how long they'd stay. But they were thrilled to be down there with each other, acting together, and open to what ever might develop.