Occupy Wall Street Aftermath
When the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street began, the demonstrators gathered in New York City’s financial district to voice their displeasure with what they perceived as unequal economics and social corruption. Proclaiming themselves to be the 99 percent, a term coined for the group’s image as the American majority, the protestors congregated in Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011. This was the first of several similar demonstrations held in financial districts, public parks, and college campuses across the nation.
While the Occupy Wall Street movement was largely considered a peaceful protest, there were moments of police and participant violence in addition to arrests, criminal charges, and fines. These are some of the most widespread charges involved in the series of demonstrations.
Disorderly conduct — Protesters in the movement were most commonly arrested and booked on charges of disorderly conduct. This broad term for disturbing or endangering the health or safety of a community most fully encompasses the actions of the crowds that gathered. Any participants who shouted obscene language in public, who loitered, or who annoyed passersby could be subject to these criminal charges. The most common penalty for this lesser penalty involved fines, but jail time was a possibility.
Blocking traffic — Several demonstrators were arrested for blocking traffic during protests in large cities. The most notable cases involved photographers who were documenting the rallies, but there were other participants arrested for similar reasons. Many of the men and women stood in the middle of the busy streets in order to make their voices heard, thereby preventing pedestrian and vehicle traffic from moving smoothly around the area.
Criminal trespass — Other members of the rallies were arrested and found guilty of criminal trespassing and criminal mischief for their efforts to gain entry into non-public areas. For example, some demonstrators attempted to enter government buildings without identification or clearance, while others tried to access equipment behind a chain link fence by using bolt cutters to clip a lock. Both of these examples constitute serious crimes by the members of the movement.
Vandalism — Vandalism commonly occurs during protests because the demonstrators are not on their own property. Any type of destruction to another person’s property is considered vandalism, so any damage that the Occupy Wall Street participants incurred at their protest locations could fall into this category. Additionally, many perpetrators of criminal trespassing also had the intent to commit vandalism when they entered someone else’s property.
Resisting Arrest — When confrontations grew heated, it was only a matter of time before officer began arresting subjects for what they determined to be unruly behavior. Since the Occupy movement spanned over so many jurisdictions, it’s possible that the authorities had their own definitions of what that meant. However, one thing that is certain is that when a protest of like-minded individuals is based on firm principles of freedom and constitutional rights, standing your ground against an illegal arrest usually translates to resistance charges.
Assault of an officer — When law enforcement officers attempted to control some aspects of the group’s actions, many members of the movement began to rise against the officers in defiance. In some instances, these protesters responded in violence against the members of the police force who were trying to keep the situation calm and orderly. Any act of striking or assaulting a police officer can result in criminal charges being filed.
Although the movement began in New York City, these types of protests and behaviors spread to public arenas all over the country. Many protesters were arrested, served jail time, and were charged with fines for their actions during these demonstrations.