When members of the loose protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street began a march in New York City last Saturday, the participants seemed relatively harmless, even as they were breaking the law by marching in the street without a permit. The New York Times says that to the city’s police department, the protesters represented an example of lawlessness like that at other anticapitalist protests like the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
On Saturday, police efforts to maintain crowd control suddenly escalated: protesters were corralled by police officers who put up orange mesh netting; the police forcibly arrested some participants; and a deputy inspector used pepper spray on four women who were on the sidewalk, behind the orange netting. The police's actions suggested the flip side of a force trained to fight terrorism b ut that may appear less nimble in dealing with the likes of the Wall Street protesters. Police commanders have been discussing the riots in London this summer, and strategizing how they would stop a similar situation in New York, said Roy Richter, the president of the union that represents officers of captain and higher rank. The protest on Saturday appeared to have resulted in the largest number of arrests since the demonstrations surrounding the Republican National Convention in 2004.