Flood Wall Street Protesters Cast Blame For Climate Change As Police Arrest 104

NEW YORK -- Thousands of protesters shut down blocks of Broadway in Lower Manhattan for hours on Monday in a demonstration that cast the blame for climate change squarely on Wall Street.

A brief, dramatic attempt by marchers to take Wall Street itself was met with police pepper spray. Despite the NYPD's tally of 104 arrests -- including one of a man in a polar bear costume -- the overall mood was markedly more contained than the Occupy Wall Street protests that began three years ago this week.

All but two of the arrestees chose to be taken in, defying six police orders to disperse.

"The world seems like it's ending, and it's the only thing I can think of to do," 56-year-old Seth Tobocman told HuffPost just before he was arrested.

Monday's Flood Wall Street demonstration had a more frankly anti-capitalist message than the massive march that took over midtown Manhattan the day before. Many of those present were veterans of Occupy, including organizers like Lisa Fithian, dubbed "Professor Occupy" for her role in teaching tactics to that movement.

"I feel like the source of all our problems in the world is coming from the very top of the financial ladder," said Jordan, a 23-year-old college student who skipped class to attend the protest. He declined to give his last name.

The day began with speakers from places as diverse as Mexico and Mali using an Occupy-style human mic in Battery Park to speak about capitalism's ill effects on their homes. Most protesters, however, were from places closer to New York.

One was Sonia Little, a Mashpee Wampanoag Native American who lives in Massachusetts. Little also attended the People's Climate March, which organizers claimed drew more than 300,000 supporters. She said Monday's protest got "a little crazy" compared to that event, but she was buoyed by the energy of both demonstrations.

"Indigenous people have been getting the raw end of greed for 500 years," said Little, a house painter and student.

For hours during the day, protesters sat surrounding the famous Charging Bull sculpture near Wall Street, even bouncing giant "carbon bubbles" off its bronze horns. Many who sat around it expected immediate arrests.

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Demonstrators push a giant "carbon bubble" past a tourist bus during the Flood Wall Street protest. (Matt Sledge/HuffPost)

But in the first big test of protest policing under Mayor Bill De Blasio, the police instead gave protesters hours to discuss politics and sing along to a radical marching band's rendition of the Twisted Sister classic, "We're Not Gonna Take It."

"I think part of it has to be the difference between De Blasio and Bloomberg, because I think Bloomberg is part of Wall Street, he's a plutocrat," explained Max Berger, who was an organizer with the Occupy movement, referring to former mayor Michael Bloomberg. By contrast, De Blasio, he pointed out, had criticized Bloomberg for violating Occupiers' First Amendment rights.

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A police officer stands guard in front of the "Charging Bull" statue near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. (Matt Sledge/HuffPost)

While a white-shirted police superior at one point told subordinates to be "nice and easy" with arrestees, the day was not without conflict.

As protesters attempted to move onto Wall Street for the New York Stock Exchange's closing bell, they were met by a phalanx of officers holding up barricades. A few charged the barriers and were pushed back. After minutes of back-and-forth struggle, one officer let loose a stream of pepper spray into several protesters' eyes.

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A street medic examines Flood Wall Street protester Evan Donovan, minutes after an NYPD officer pepper-sprayed him across a barricade protecting Wall Street. (Matt Sledge/HuffPost)

Evan Donovan was one. As video confirms, he had seconds before been chatting with an officer. Donovan said he'd been trying to explain that he had a free speech right to protest on Wall Street itself.

"Apparently they disagreed with me," he told HuffPost, his faced drenched with water to wash away the spray.

Just before 7 p.m., the police ordered protesters who remained at the same intersection of Broadway and Wall Street to disperse. For the next hour and a half, those who chose to stay were led away in plastic FlexiCuffs one by one.

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Protesters sit on Broadway expecting arrest. The NYPD chose to essentially wait many of the Flood Wall Street demonstrators out, making the vast majority of arrests seven hours after Monday's action began. (Matt Sledge/HuffPost)

A protester's boombox blasted "Turn Down for What" by DJ Snake and Lil Jon. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton himself oversaw the last handful of arrests.

The protesters on both sides of the barricades continued cheering.

"No wars, no warming!" shouted one woman, as she was taken away to a waiting police bus.



Occupy Wall Street Anniversary