Occupy Wall Street protesters are massing in Times Square, after marching up Sixth Avenue to the neon-lit tourist capital of the world. It’s been an eventful day already around the world with Occupy Wall Street–inspired protests rattling through hundreds of cities, including Madrid, which saw some 60,000 people turn out, and Rome, where the demonstrations turned violent with cars and government offices set on fire, as well as dozens of injured. Closer to home, some 24 protesters were arrested earlier in the day for “occupying” a Citibank near Washington Square Park — MoveOn.org now says those arrested were inside closing out their bank accounts, which they are legally entitled to do we’re pretty sure, when cops locked them in. Other reports mentioned mini-protests outside several Chase bank branches in downtown. Forty-some people briefly started a sit-in outside the Astoria Place Chase bank but desisted when faced with arrest. Today’s surge started around noon when some 2,000 protesters began marching up Broadway from Zuccotti Park, on their way to join up with several hundred college students massing in Washington Square. So far, there are no reports of large-scale clashes with police, who are reminding the protesters to stay on the sidewalks. According to reports on Twitter, protesters responded to police complaints that they were blocking pedestrian traffic by chanting in unison: “We are pedestrian traffic!”
Update: Police are keeping the Times Square protesters cordoned off from the pedestrians behind barricades, per the Daily News, and a Twitter blogger remarked around 4:45 p.m. on a “large mobilization of 20 marked and unmarked NYPD vehicles moving north up 6th. Including a few buses.”
Update II: Reuters, whose offices are in Times Square, has photos of a “sea of protesters” entering the area. Reuters social media maven Anthony de Rosa retweeted a message at around 5:30 p.m. that “police arressted [sic] the lead marchers on west side of 6th.”
Update III: New York’s Alex Klein reports from Times Square: The crowd is now chanting “who are you protecting,” as police on horses tussle with protesters. Police with batons approaching, grabbing protesters around me. Someone has been hit, another thrown to the ground and taken away. A chorus of boos are ringing out and a man in gold spandex on top of a trash can is grabbing his junk, yelling, “I love you, police!” The cops also have scooters and riot shields.
Update IV: Alex Klein reporting from the scene: The police have taken to horseback and motorcycles as the sun sets on Time Square. They’re trotting down Broadway now, separating out the crowd. About five minutes ago, a facilitator at the General Assembly announced that a “magic moment” would occur in fifteen minutes. Amy, a 26-year-old facilitator who has been occupying since the beginning, hinted that “something is going to happen to the billboards. It’s classified. But there might be something like a hacking happening.” Another facilitator involved in the project confirmed, but would not share his name for fears of criminal prosecution.
Update V: By 6:30 p.m. Twitter users at Times Square were broadcasting that arrests were being made, minutes before “Democracy Now!” reporter Ryan Deveraux tweeted, “A horse just went down. Crowd is going wild. NYPD says anyone near barricade is going to jail.”
Update VI: Alex Klein reporting from Times Square: As officers on horseback pushed into the crowd at 46th and Broadway, two people were beaten, and one pinned and carried away. As crowds on the other side of the barricade pushed forward, a group of officers ran toward the divider with billie clubs. The crowd pushed backward and an older woman was knocked to the floor. She lay bleeding from a gash in her head, tended by four occupiers around her. “She’s an 81-year old holocaust survivor,” claimed Alan Roth, 50, who was holding a rag to her head. “They charged quickly toward the gate then this happened,” he said. His denim jacket was stained with her blood. An officer standing next to her told me an ambulance was coming, but given the blockades, there is no way an ambulance could get through.
The occupation had been fairly low-key until the six o’clock arrival of police in riot gear, on horses, motorcycles, and with shields. An occupier Jason Saadiin, 31, said, “It was so pedestrian and boring until the police showed up.” He was also at the scene and saw police pulling front-line protesters out of the crowd and beating them with batons, about twenty yards from where I was standing. “They embarrass themselves every time, they draw an invisible line through intimidation, and when people cross them, they hurt them.”
Update VII: WNBC is estimating that between 10,000 and 20,000 people are in Times Square, while Twitter reports collected by Reuters’ de Rosa say that police in riot gear as well as the NYPD’s counterterrorism unit have arrived in the area. By now, police have sealed the area and even pushed protesters back enough to allow limited car traffic through, asking the assembled masses to “please exit at 46th.”
Update VIII: It’s about 7:15 p.m. and the Twitter chatter at #OccupyWallStreet seems to be sending mixed signals. Some say that the demonstrations are headed back to Washington Square and that a General Assembly is to be held there at ten this evening. Others report that hundreds of people are now sitting in Times Square with a Salon reporter on the scene tweeting that a proposal has been made to “occupy this section of Times Square.”
Update IX: Police are forming a line with batons and orange nets and moving down 46th Street, trying to clear the area, reported Clare Trapasso for the Daily News at 7:42 p.m. “Police are saying someone is going to get hurt if 46th St. isn’t cleared,” she’d live-blogged just a few minutes before. About the same time that Salon’s Peter Rothberg tweeted that, “According to multiple sources, all #OWS protesters in Times Square now face arrest if they don’t immediately proceed out of the area.”
Update X: Alex Klein reporting just before 8 p.m.: Time Square is now totally locked down. There are at least a hundred cops lining Broadway, ten or more on horseback, and another twenty on motorcycles or scooters. As the chants get louder, the people are yelling, “Stop! Go back! You can’t cross!” Officers have spent the last hour locking the riot gates into place to create a “pen” system. Each pen has a plastic laminated card at its entrances: “You are now in Pen #6.” Pedestrians can only cross the street at 51st and 46th Streets. The brass band next to American Eagle is no longer playing, and there are no more conga lines in sight.
We also have more details on the violent altercation that occurred just over an hour ago at 46th and Broadway, in the shadow of the TKTS booth. Protesters had climbed up on barricades and trash cans to chant and sing. One officer, named Loder, faced a lot of insults: “You should switch sides! It’s all over for you.” Tensions rose as police took out video cameras to tape the offending protesters.
After two minutes, one activist shouted out, “Let’s push over the barricade.” As some protesters moved forward into the intersection, two officers on horseback repelled them. People were seen trying to kick and push the horses away. Said a facilitator who asked not to be named, “The horses were stomping on people. We were yelling, ‘stop, get down, don’t get arrested.’” Sewer steam was billowing into the air and one occupier yelled “tear gas!” in confusion. As the protesters pushed forward, officers ran toward them with batons, yelling, “Get back!” The crowd fell backwards, and an 82-year-old woman cracked her head on the pavement. She lay in the street bleeding from the head for ten minutes before EMTs arrived. During that time, police drove in a truck filled with more gates to the intersection, as well as several scooters. At least two people were arrested in the showdown.