Occupiers arrested in W’burg condo takeover

Occupiers arrested in W’burg condo takeover
Courtesy of Stephanie Keith

Party time could lead to prison time for several protestors who broke into a vacant condo building near Bedford Avenue on Saturday night and held an “Occu-Party” before clashing with cops on the street.

About three-dozen revelers invaded the N. Eighth Street building at 10 pm, responding to an ad circulated on e-mail listservs for a party and protest that promised “to weave a fabric of insubordination beginning in one neighborhood and ballooning outward.”

An hour and scores of beers later, police gave the demonstrators the boot, cops say.

But when the officers tried to remove the trespassers, the occupiers — who had reportedly spray painted vacant units with messages like “F— the police” and “Cannibalize the crisis!” — fought back.

A melee broke out in the street in which one cop twisted his ankle after a protester shoved him, another suffered a bruise to his head after getting hit with a glass bottle, and a third got punched in the head from behind, police said.

Six officers suffered injuries altogether and police arrested four protesters, who were arraigned on Monday on felony charges including rioting, menacing, harassment, disorderly conduct, and reckless endangerment, according to a District Attorney spokesman. Prosectors charged two defendants with assault and charged the other two with attempted assault, which could lead to prison sentences if they are convicted.

But one defendant’s attorney claims her client — identified as Emma Engle in our sister publication the New York Post — is not responsible for injuring an officer’s ankle and would avoid a prison sentence.

“My client denies the allegations and looks forward to her day in court,” said Legal Aid’s Jennifer Ritter. “Already at arraignment the prosecution has offered up an alternate version of its story and my client is looking forward to the truth coming out.”
The “Occu-Party” happened in Williamsburg, but members of Occupy Williamsburg, the neighborhood’s most entrenched economic justice protesters, say violent confrontations aren’t their style.

“I don’t go to parties — I’m nine months pregnant and I spent that night building my registry,” said Beka Economopoulos, who has attended Occupy Williamsburg meetings.

Occupy Williamsburg’s head organizer could not be reached for comment, but other sources said the Occu-Party was not an official Occupy Williamsburg event.

The four-month-old movement, which began in a Lower Manhattan park to call attention to economic inequality, has captivated the entire nation and inspired similar actions throughout the world.

There are now satellite groups working in Bushwick, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Red Hook and East New York, and rumors about protestors physically occupying abandoned buildings in Williamsburg.

So far, demonstrators have taken over the Borough Hall subway station, railed against controversial development projects including Atlantic Yards, stormed a hearing about a proposed charter school, and marched over the Brooklyn Bridge with sympathetic politicians including Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) — who says he empathizes with the movement but denounces the destruction of private property and the clash with police.

A spokesman for Occupy Wall Street would not condone the action and said the group was co-opting a “popular brand” by taking over the abandoned building.

“I personally think that mixing alcohol and protests is a potential for increasing difficulties with the police,” said Patrick Bruner. “Anytime there’s an action that’s planned, there’s the possibility for other things not endorsed by the group to occur, and that’s not an action that is reflective of the group as a whole.”

But the demonstrators behind the “Occu-Party” were prepared for the backlash, defending themselves in a message posted on AnarchistNews.org

“It will not only be the police, the rich, and the reactionary press that will slam the vandalists— activists will likely join in as well, decrying the occupation as not being social enough, not populist enough,” someone wrote under the name Geiseric Tendency.

“No one will understand the vandalists because they are not of either world; they seek neither professionalist capitalism nor professionalist activism.”