By Dave Lindorff
New York City -- There were many extraordinary moments during both Sunday's huge climate march through mid-Manhattan and Monday's more militant protest in Lower Manhattan's financial district, from the little boy marching with a tambourine that had "This Machine Kills Fascists" written around its edge to the bored policeman along the march route blowing a huge bubble from the gum he was chewing, but perhaps the most telling occurred in the early afternoon on Monday, when, as several thousand climate action protesters sat or milled around, penned into several blocks of Broadway by hundreds of linked-together metal police barricades, a young man astride a pair of telephone booths began an impromptu IWW rant.
The day before, during the big march down Central Park West, Sixth Avenue and across 42nd Street, those phone booths had been favored vantage points for photographers, dancing young women and people just trying to get a better view of the march. Bored cops standing along the parade route would chat and joke with those perched above. But this time a young man, dressed in black and standing in sight of the big bronze Wall Street Bull sculpture, and just several blocks down Broadway from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange building, was shouting out a call for workers to unite, rise up and overthrow the capitalist system. It was just too much for the police who were guarding the barricades to segregate people so those on the street couldn't leave and so supporters on the sidewalk couldn't join the protest.
A dozen of the cops came over to the nine-foot-tall phone booths, surrounding them, and demanded that the shouting young man come down. He ignored them, realizing that they couldn't reach him, and went on to finish his speech, which was relayed phrase by phrase via the "human mic" technique perfected three years earlier by the Occupy Wall Street movement. When he was done, he paced around on his perch like a rooster, looking down at the surrounding cops, and then suddenly made his break.
Leaping over the cops and some of the surrounding protest supporters, he managed to land on his feet on the sidewalk and started running. Protesters closed ranks behind him, slowing down the cops who all began chasing after him.
At that point, all the police guarding the metal barriers took off after the young man too. Eventually this police horde caught up with the man, and leapt on him like a rugby scrum. I don't know what happened to him in the end. He was probably arrested and charged tautologically with resisting arrest, but for what violation I don't know since, as the events of the day before proved that just standing on a phone booth was not illegal or cause for arrest; apparently only making a leftist speech from one is a "crime."
But this anonymous orator's escape attempt turned out to be an unintended act of liberation. As soon as the majority of police lit out after him, abandoning their posts for the opportunity to finally pummel someone, people on the sidewalk and in the street spontaneously, with no organized encouragement, began unhooking the gates separating them. On the west side of Broadway, people carried the gate segments around a corner and down a side street out of sight. On the east side of the street, the sections were piled in a heap on top of each other, after which protesters scaled them and sat down. The gates were never replaced by police, and the attempt to fence in the protest collapsed.
Actually then, far from blocking Broadway, as the media reported the FloodWallStreet action to have done, the protesters had made their protest zone the only place where pedestrians could freely cross from the west side of Broadway to the east easily and unimpeded. All around Wall Street in every direction except for that one liberated zone, police had set up so many roadblocks and lines of gates that grumbling workers in the financial district were having to make eight- to ten-block detours to get to and from their lunch break. And cars? Fugetaboudit!