The Ball dropped in New York City, but was anybody watching? The real story was captured on streaming video live as the Occupy Wall Street Crowd and their infamous Bat Signal took back Zuccatti Park from the NYPD.
Tim Pool, an Internet blogger with a unique approach to journalism, captured the events and broadcast them live New Year’s Eve and early in the morning New Year’s Day as he followed OWSers around New York City’s Zuccatti Park and surrounding streets, capturing the activity and broadcasting them live via a smart phone. Pool operates a live streaming channel on Ustream entitled Timcast. He has contributed to mainstream media outlets and can be seen streaming live from the events he covers as he asks questions of participants and chat room participants and answers their questions live.
Coverage of the night’s events lasted about three hours. It began close to midnight as OWSers, about a 100 or more, started streaming into the park. The crowd quickly surged to three hundred as cops attempted to keep them out. The police and security officers failed to prevent the occupation of the park however and were forced to watch as protestors tore down barricades and piled them up as makeshift scaffolding at the park’s center. The protestors engaged a mobile projector which they used to project OWS slogans on nearby buildings.
Re-enforcements arrived later after midnight and the protestors were then forced out of the park. Unperturbed, the OWS members, the 50 or so who remained, went on a walking tour of the city, shouting their familiar slogans and celebrating with drums and air horns. Many were seen carrying cameras and cell phone cameras to capture the events as Pool followed the group.
The events came to a head around 3 a.m. when the OWS crowd was walking on a public sidewalk. Cops on motor scooters surrounded the protestors and blocked both their advance and retreat. The crowd, unable to move in either direction, shouted at cops and asked for permission to continue on their route. A senior police commander in a braided cap and a helmeted police captain can be seen on video, the commander with his back to the crowd as the two converse on their next action. After a brief conversation with his commander the captain makes the announcement that the crowd is blocking the public sidewalk and must disperse. See video at minute 3:05.
Pool continues to narrate at this point in the video making the observation that the cops are themselves blocking the street to prevent the march to continue and then claiming that the crowd is blocking the right away and must therefore disperse.
Frustrated protestors attempt to get around the blockade but were prevented by police who seemed to sort through the crowds, arresting key individuals and allowing others to leave, often forcing occupants to leave with whom they had no interest. It appeared to this writer as a deliberate screening tactic to sort out agitators who organized the protest activities from the regular foot soldiers who only participated in the evening’s activities.
Pool, apparently unaware that the screen was deliberate made the comment like, “there’re just arresting people at random, no rhyme or reason. There just arresting people at random and letting the others go. No sense.”
Pool was screened through the crowd and then allegedly pushed, but definitely forced to leave the main body of the crowd. He complained over live streaming video that the cop had sprained his wrist. He repeated this point several times, complaining about pain in his wrist after his confrontation with a New York City cop.
Forced out of the group, Pool continued to capture video of the arrests. He notes that a prominent observer with the National Lawyers Guild group was arrested after he was allegedly talking on his phone or capturing video of the event. An individual can be seen on video with his smart phone raised in front of him when an officer engages him and puts him in an arm bar and forcing him to bend over the hood of a parked car. The man is arrested by a group of police and put in one of three police vans that arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. See the video at minute 9:58.
To this writer, the OWS video was much more interesting than watching the evening’s normal festivities, which are always a bore. I was impressed at the tech-savvy of the blogger, Pool, at the same time stunned by his youthful naiveté. In his rolling commentary, it was obvious he knew nothing about police tactics and was caught totally by surprise when the group was finally swarmed and their key members arrested. Remarkably talented in the tech world however, he was multi-tasking the whole time; delivering commentary, explaining what he had seen to other people on the street, following the hoard and answering questions on live chat, all at the same time. Pool’s skill in this regard can really not be understated.
I’ve been able to see this kind of event from a law enforcement point of view, having witnessed it first hand as a 20-year veteran of the Army National Guard. I served an extended tour of duty in Iraq, but later I was called to active duty to provide security support to local law enforcement during the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul in 2008. My duties put me near the action down town where my soldiers and I ran a security a checkpoint at Holmen Field Airport in St. Paul. During those weeks I watched as anarchists attempted to disrupt the convention with protests. Cops raided warehouses of bricks and other tools, Molotov cocktails and other weapons to prevent violence perpetrated by the crowd. Anarchists broke windows in the downtown business areas before going into porta-poties provided by the city where they obtained bags of feces and urine to throw at cops.
Despite the sheer ugliness of the crowds of protestors those weeks, I was impressed by the remarkable restraint and professionalism of all the agencies involved in maintaining order, from the Minneapolis, St. Paul and South St. Paul Police Departments, State Patrol, to the Coast Guard who supplied mission helicopters to monitor the crowds from the air and intercept civilian air traffic, to the Homeland Security Air Marshalls who enhanced security on the ground in my location. All of them were good humored, professional and restrained.
The OWS people remind me a lot of the anarchists who tried to disrupt the RNC and DNC in 2008. In fact, in many cases they are probably the same people, from a leadership point of view. I remember attending a high level briefing from the Secret Service describing how the ones responsible for the RNC disruption also organized the one at the DNC. In a twist of fate, my brother was living in Colorado at the time. Also a National Guard Captain, as I was at the time, my brother led a quick reaction team during the DNC to help maintain order and the two of us compared notes that year.
Comparing the two events in my mind, the RNC/DNC of 2008 and the OWS movement’s recapture of Zuccatti Park, I’m amazed at the similarities. The state and local law enforcement of Minnesota, enhanced by the Coast Guard, National Guard, Secret Service, were really, really good. The New York City Police Department by comparison is the best in the world. They are not at all like the mindless, club wielding morons the Left says they are. Their corralling and subsequent arrest of the leadership looked rehearsed and well executed. The police didn’t make the arrests in the park you will notice, where the crowds had ample routes of escape to slither into. The cops waited until they put themselves in a bad situation, with no escape, and then they pounced. The cops acted where the situation and terrain best suited them, not the protestors.
The technological similarities also intrigue me. Pool brags in the video how both law enforcement and OWS uses his video for their own purposes. Duh! But I don’t think that’s the only resource available to either party. OWS has a well organized and funded PR arm, thank you to the likes of George Soros. But the NYPD aren’t duffers either. At the RNC, Homeland Security agents confided in us that one of their agents, undercover as a protestor, had attached a Smartphone to his jacket with a camera and was broadcasting to all involved law enforcement agencies live feed of what he was seeing. We watched the video from the computer terminal inside a South Saint Paul PD cruiser. Law enforcement used this Intel and the agent’s regular updates to track the actions and movements of the protestors, using a team of highly trained crowd control squads and a city snow plow truck to trap the remaining agitators on a bridge. I will bet hard money NYPD has embedded undercover cops with similar capabilities in the unsuspecting OWS crowds.
Compare this with the situation in Syria. The Syrian military is attacking their own people with machine guns and grenades in a blood bath that even the Arab League observers find objectionable. The blood and carnage is captured on The Telegraph in the UK. Unlike Syria, no one was seriously injured in New York New Year’s Eve and Day celebrations and no shots were fired. I call that a huge win for the NYPD.
Compare as well the actions of the Tea Party VS the various OWS people. The so-called green-loving, peace-loving activists who care so much about the pensions of the bruiser cops who oppress them are themselves, miserable whiny slobs who break things that aren’t theirs, steel, swear, rape, defecate on police cars and generally cause chaos, costing the taxpayers millions in damages and lost business. The Tea Party however, from my own St. Paul to Washington D.C, always file for their lawful permit to protest, waive to the State Patrol helicopters and pat law enforcement on the shoulders when they see them, and leave the parks and venues where they visit cleaner than what they found them. The differences couldn’t be starker.
It will be interesting to see the interaction between law enforcement and the protestors of both OWS and Tea Party in this politically pivotal New Year. I am betting on the determination and love of country of the Tea Party, so you know my bias. But the outcome of this battle is in no way certain. Both have assets and know how, passion and drive. In the end, the ones with the most determination and stamina will win out.
It is up to the bloggers to capture and broadcast these events to their selective audience, since the mainstream media seems unwilling or unable to report it and put it in context. An informed citizenry is key to the freedom of the individual in a representative republic like ours. I am counting on the conservative bloggers like those of my friends at ConservativeDailyNews.com and many others to give clear reporting and thoughtful, clarifying commentary on these events from the Right (see how I did that? Right is always Right, Right?!) perspective.
The year 2012 promises to be a very exciting year! We should all feel so lucky that in these turbulent times, we live in a representative republic and not somewhere else where the rights of human beings are not so sacred.