O.W.S. taking a physical toll on the NYPDJames Cohen in Downtown Express, October 19, 2011
Twenty NYPD officers have been injured in Occupy Wall Street related incidents, with five officers being hospitalized, in separate incidents, since the protest started last month, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the situation. The injuries sustained by the five, all of whom have since been released from the hospital, include hand and ankle injuries, and at least one head trauma, according to the source.
Two recent protest marches that resulted in police and protester injuries took place in Times Square on Oct. 15, and Downtown a day earlier on Oct. 14 when protesters marched down Broadway from Zuccotti Park toward the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the postponement by park owner Brookfield Properties to displace the occupiers and clean the park.
First Precinct Commander Edward Winski suffered a minor elbow injury when a protester fought with the deputy inspector while being arrested after refusing to move from the street to the sidewalk during the march. In addition to the charge of resisting arrest, the arrestee was charged with obstructing government administration and criminal mischief.
A police spokesman explained that it is illegal to block vehicular or pedestrian traffic. If protesters ignore police orders to move from the street to the sidewalk they can be summonsed or arrested depending on circumstances, he explained.
Bruce Bentley, an attorney with the NYC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who are providing legal observation and mass defense services for O.W.S., said, “I advise people, ‘if you go in the street, you might be arrested.’” Bentley also said that it was not the role of a guild observer to interact with police during an observation of police activity.
A second protester was arrested during the Oct. 14 march and charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property after grabbing and trying to leave with the megaphone Winski dropped while making the first arrest on Maiden Lane and Water Street.
Some O.W.S. protesters have criticized the NYPD for excessive force and other actions during marches and protests.
James Cohen, professor at Fordham Law School explained that police officers are “supposed to use just enough force to effect an arrest.” Cohen said that if an arrestee resists, “more force is justified in response.” Members of a crowd can also be arrested for interfering with a lawful arrest, according to Cohen.
While the round-the clock police monitoring of the occupation in Zuccotti Park and concurrent marches has drawn NYPD personnel from precincts citywide, the 1st Precinct has “the lion’s share of responsibility,” according to Anthony Notaro, President of the 1st Precinct Community Council.
The 1st Precinct handles over one hundred rallies, marches and protests per year without incident, according to the earlier police source.
On whether O.W.S. has ever applied for a street march permit, Bentley said, “I have not heard of people sitting down and applying for a permit. It doesn’t mean it has or has not happened.”
“We have not seen this number of arrests for any one event in years,” said Notaro of the O.W.S. related actions.
O.W.S. is supporting the October 22 rally at Union Square to protest police brutality.