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Protesters Warned Before Mass Arrests on Brooklyn Bridge, Police Say

By DNAinfo Staff on October 2, 2011 2:10pm  | Updated on October 2, 2011 6:28pm

MANHATTAN — New video released by police shows an NYPD supervisor warning members of Occupy Wall Street that they would be arrested if they did not leave the Brooklyn Bridge roadway Saturday during an hours-long standoff that resulted in hundreds of arrests.

Thousands of protesters had packed onto the span as part of their demonstration against Wall Street greed, which began on Sept. 17.

Some jammed onto the pedestrian walkway, but others took to the roadway, where they were not allowed to march.

"Take the bridge! Take the bridge!" protesters can be heard repeatedly chanting while the senior NYPD officer, dressed in a rain coat, shouts at them to clear off the roadway at the entrance to the bridge on the Brooklyn-bound side.

"I am ordering you to leave this roadway now. If you do so voluntarily no charges will be placed against you," the officer says.

"If you refuse to leave, you will be placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct. If you do not wish to be arrested, you must leave this area now."

But instead of turning around, members at the front of the group proceeded to link arms while many chanted in call and response: "This is what democracy looks like."

They then walked forward onto the roadway, apparently unobstructed, before the video cuts off.

It is not clear if the captain who was making the announcement could be heard throughout the crowd and several protesters told DNAinfo on Saturday that police appeared to let them onto the span before corralling and arresting them.

A video posted on YouTube appears to show the officers walking in front of the group.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether protesters were allowed onto the roadway after being warned that they would be arrested.

In a second video, this time on the bridge, the captain again tells the protesters that they are going to be arrested.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you have refused to leave this roadway, I am ordering your arrest on disorderly conduct," the officer says, while protesters shout "Let us through!"

The captain then says warns that if protesters do not go voluntarily to the police vehicles, "you must be carried" and will be charged with obstructing governmental administration.

At that point, many of the protesters in the front of the group sat down while others began chanting "Shame! Shame!"

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it had been determined at that point that everybody on the roadway would be arrested and whether anyone was permitted to leave without being charged.

More than 700 people were arrested during the five-hour confrontation on the bridge, police said.  Most were charged with disorderly conduct and issued summonses.

“The video released [Sunday] is reminiscent of videos from 2004 at the Republican National Convention when people were put behind netting and were arrested for things that the police told them they could do," said Martin Stolar, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, who is representing several of the protesters.

"In a sense it’s police entrapment."

Stolar said that 467 people were issued desk appearance tickets, 267 received summonses and eight people were not released as of Sunday afternoon.  A city school teacher was released without bail after his arraignment on Sunday.

Protester Jonathan Westin, 27, a community organizer from Bedford-Stuvesant, Brooklyn, said that he marched out to the middle of the bridge but was able to leave before the arrests began.

“I think [the video released by police] represents partially what happened, but it doesn't represent that people were allowed onto the bridge," he said. "They had the capacity to prevent people from going on the bridge but didn’t."

A protester who only identified herself as Kate because she faces charges stemming from the incident agreed.

"Everything around me indicated that it was appropriate for us to be walking," she said, speaking at Manhattan Criminal Court. "We were walking with the police and they were right next to us."

During a march to Union Square from the group's encampment in Zuccotti Park, near the World Trade Center, on Sept. 24, some 80 protesters were arrested in a clash with police.

That day, a high-ranking police official, identified by sources as Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, was spotted on video tape allegedly pepper spraying a group of women protesters.

That incident is under investigation by the NYPD.