Flood Wall Street sets sights on capitalism, arrests made

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Felipe De La Hoz, Contributing Writer

A man climbed a lamppost in the financial district and addressed the crowd in a symbolic moment on Sept. 22. Yelling that money was worthless, he reached into his pocket and threw a loose wad of cash at police officers below.

The man was part of a crowd of protesters who gathered near the New York Stock Exchange for the Flood Wall Street protest, a direct rebuke to Wall Street’s supposed role in climate change.

Dressed in blue, the activists, many of whom participated in the Climate March, settled on Broadway within sight of the NYSE. They were surrounded by NYPD officers.

The activists estimated their turnout to be 3,000 people in a press release, though an officer at the scene said she believed the number was closer to 1,000.

Unlike the Climate March’s largely nonviolent demonstration, several protesters were arrested in sporadic flare-ups of violence. On at least one occasion, police officers used pepper spray on the demonstrators while horse-mounted officers stood at the ready.

“It felt very peaceful until we got to the barricades and the police got aggressive,” said Aaron McAuliffe, a self-described queer liberation and anti-war activist. “But I think we’re channeling our aggression productively.”

Flood Wall Street spokeswoman Bessie Shwarz stressed that the aim of the march was to start a public dialogue, not violence.

“There were only a very small handful of arrests, but we feel confident that our message got out,” Shwarz said.

Activists made sure to point out that, though the People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street were part of the same overall movement, the demonstrations had a different tone and different objectives.

Anthony Robledo, one of the activists, said the group used the momentum from the Climate March to further their specific message. 

“The tone here is more radical liberal,” Robledo said. “People are mad at the beast.”

Marvin Knight, a retiree, said though the two protests were intertwined, this one focuses on Wall Street. He stood draped in a sign that read “Blacks. Time to flee, you are mere props, commodities.”

McAuliffe said the demonstration continues to unite people.

“[Climate change] is an issue  that can bring everyone together, from all the different movements, queer, people of color, whatever,” McAuliffe said. “It affects everyone.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 23 print edition. Email Felipe De La Hoz at [email protected].