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Jasper L. Clyatt / Senior staff photographer

Felicia Bishop, CC '12, avoided arrest by a stroke of luck last weekend. Bishop said she and her friends were walking on the pedestrian pathway of the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday with hundreds of Occupy Wall Street marchers, protesting corporate greed, unemployment, and corrupt financial institutions. They saw police officers in the street, assumed they were leading the marchers forward, and hopped into the road—and nearly into jail—with the rest of the protesters. Moments later, the bridge was barricaded and she was told everyone on it would be arrested. As she waited, a man, who she thinks was a New York Police Department officer, unexpectedly released her and a few people nearby. "He picked 10 and we were released and escorted off the bridge, where a good 50 officers were waiting," Bishop said. "I guess they did that with a few other groups when they didn't have the capacity to hold us." 700 people were arrested that day, several of them Columbia students, in an ongoing national campaign that began three weeks ago on Wall Street, where hundreds of mostly young people have been camping out or showing up for daily demonstrations. Justine Lyons, BC '13, had attended the rallies in Occupy Wall Street's epicenter Zuccotti Park, but she said she never imagined getting arrested. Like Bishop, she joined the march across the Brooklyn Bridge but didn't realize that the NYPD had told the crowd not to walk on the roadway. "The police are saying that they gave us a warning," Lyons said, adding that while it was given, most didn't hear the warning to move to the pedestrian pathway. "Any reasonable person would not have expected a huge group of protesters to hear." After being handcuffed, Lyons and other detainees were put in MTA buses for about three hours before arriving at the precinct. Lyons said she was the fifth to last person who was released, at about 3:30 a.m., almost 12 hours after she was first handcuffed. She was charged with blocking vehicular traffic, failure to obey lawful order to move, and improper use of roadway. Both Lyons and Bishop said they were suspicious about the fact that JPMorgan Chase Bank recently donated 4.5 million dollars to the NYPD. "The people that are meant to protect you, you really call that into question, you wonder where alliances lie," Bishop said. Some have criticized the populist campaign, that has spread to dozens of cities, as unfocused. Thus far the protesters have relied on Facebook and Twitter for organization and, despite a myriad of grievances, they have not yet adopted a formal agenda or a list of demands. "I don't think that a protest is really effective. They're looking for change in the system but simply protesting isn't going to do it," Layla Tavangar, BC '15 said. "Maybe more concentrated efforts ... writing letters to Congress members ... They need to be a little more realistic and focused." But Yoni Golijov, CC '12 and a member of International Socialist Organization and CU Activists, said that declarations of demands had been written at the movement's daily general assemblies, in which anyone who wishes to may speak for five minutes. "Anyone that says it's unclear what people are fighting for is covering their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears," Golijov said, explaining that it's an anti-corporation movement demanding answers for the working class that has bailed out big banks. Cindy Gao, CC '12 and political chair of the Asian American Alliance, said initially she was more concerned about the homogeneity of the protest's participants. "The demographics seemed like young white people who maybe didn't have similar views as me," Gao said, explaining that she felt that they didn't think they were talking about how the economic crisis disproportionately affects people of color. However, Gao has participated in the protest and said she was happy to see that she was able to voice her support for issues of settler colonialism and for people of color. In Zuccotti Park there is a white board where people can write about which issues should be considered. "I'm going to make sure that there's an Asian American presence there," Gao said. Rebecca Giglio contributed reporting. An earlier version of this article misquoted Yoni Golijov and stated that Gao was concerned about "southern colonialism". She was referring to "settler colonialism". Spectator regrets this error. karla.jimenez@columbiaspectator.com

unemployment Protest Occupy Wall Street Financial Crisis
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