An estimated 2,000 marchers in New York continued their attempt to launch a populist “Occupy Wall Street” movement this past weekend, and after a week of protests they finally got the attention of the national press. A filmed outburst of police violence — a video of what looked like a cop spraying mace at four women standing behind a cordon has spread like wildfire across the Internet — might not be the most direct way of targeting financial corruption, but the events on Saturday captured a growing sense of populist powerlessness that has found little space for expression beyond the conservative Tea Party movement.
Hundreds of people have been “occupying” Wall Street for more than a week, borrowing nonviolent tactics — like camping out — previously seen at small protest throughout in Europe and the Middle East. They hope their continuous presence will draw attention to corruption and concentration in the financial sector, and kick off a wave of mass mobilization similar to this spring’s political protests in Cairo or this summer’s giant peaceful revolt in Tel Aviv, which targeted skyrocketing prices and a tycoon-controlled Israeli economy.
Patrick Bruner, a protester and member of the Public Relations Working Group, estimated that 96 people were arrested on Saturday alone, and that police used mace on at least six people. Bruner has been protesting at Liberty Square, or Zuccotti Park, but has not been able to sleep there for fear of being arrested. The NYPD has denied claims that people were arrested for just observing the protests.
Bruner said that Saturday’s events reinvigorated the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters:. “They attempted to shut us down in one fell swoop, but they can’t,” he said, noting that hundreds of protestors had flocked to Wall Street on Monday to continue the demonstrations while the police cut down on their presence.
“I think they’ve realized what a huge tactical error they made Saturday,” Bruner said.