Several dozen protesters sit Indian-style on Seventh Avenue near the corner of West 46th Street in Times Square. Thousands more stand atop mailboxes and newspaper stands, cling onto utility poles and scaffolding and straddle traffic light stands from 42nd Street up, lining both sides of the avenue, transforming the Crossroads of the World into a massive, global act of solidarity and protest.
People of all ages and backgrounds cram the sidewalks holding signs, chanting and snapping photos; others simply try to push through, tourists mix with protestors mix with the white-faced blood-dripping living dead caught in the fray following the annual Zombie Walk and Comic Con.
A news ticker on Broadway flashes: “Occupy Wall Street Movement Goes Worldwide.” Waves of cheers surge along the huddle. Two people wheel a giant papier-mâché bullhorn through the swarm. A man in a Guy Fawkes mask snaps a photo as a New York Police Department helicopter hovers above.
“Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!” roars the crowd. “Wall Street Times Square Occ-u-py Everywhere! Wall Street Times Square Occ-u -py Everywhere!” they chant.
About an arm’s length away behind a short metal barricade stands a wall of police, six to seven men thick in some spots, all in uniform, many dark blue, some a solid white. Behind them holds a line of officers in riot gear, their blue-and-white shielded helmets reflecting the red glow of the gigantic Bank of America billboard across Broadway. A tower of mounted police officers on horseback spanning several blocks backs them up, forming legions of black silhouettes.
Additional riot police are making their way down 46th Street from Sixth Avenue, announces a man from atop a traffic pole, cupping his hands to amplify Occupy Wall Street’s human call-and-response PA system that begins with yelling “Mic Check!” and is repeated by those within earshot until hundreds can hear the message. Other officers unfurl orange mesh netting and stretch it across the street a few feet behind protesters. The mountain of police pushes closer.
“Step back!” shouts a white-uniformed policeman through a megaphone.
“You step back!” fires the crowd in unison. “You step back! You step back! You step back! You step back! You step back! You step back!”
“We’re doing this for you!” someone else screams. “Po-lice are the nine-ty nine percent! Po-lice are the nine-ty nine per-cent!” another chant begins.
A similar standoff with police happens a few hours later Saturday night about 40 blocks south, in Washington Square Park, where several hundred Occupiers filled the park’s fountain to hold its daily NYC General Assembly—an open, horizontally and participatory gathering in which Occupy Wall Street supporters make decisions based on collective consensus, signaled through a series of hand gestures.
One idea debated is whether to move its main occupation from the private/public Zuccotti Park, renamed Liberty Square by protestors, in Manhattan’s Financial District—where it’s been since about 200 supporters took residence there on Sept. 17 after police broke up a planned encampment literally on Wall Street—to the public Washington Square.
Dozens of officers—uniformed, wearing riot gear, mounted on horses and backed up by blocks and blocks of police buses, vans and other vehicles—descend on the park to enforce the city’s midnight curfew, surrounding Washington Square’s Arch and sealing off its entrances.
About 10 minutes before police lines marched through, arresting anyone in defiance, a mic check announced the General Assembly’s decision to return to Zuccotti. One protestor lambasted police, however, standing a few feet in front of them with the middle fingers of both hands extended.
“One day you’re going to have to meet us in the streets and we have you outnumbered,” he sneered. “Adios, officers, I’m off to date your daughter.”