Policemen from the 40th Precinct in the South Bronx arrested five people on Saturday morning during an Occupy the Bronx protest. Organizers had planned a day of peaceful demonstrations to express their disapproval of the city’s decision last month to close a community garden and prepare the land for sale.
The arrests add another handful to the more than 5,000 arrests that have been reported by Occupy Arrests, a group of anonymous Occupy Wall Street protesters. The group relies mainly on tweets sent via the Twitter handle @OccupyArrests by other protestors around the country.
The police were already at Morning Glory, the garden located on Southern Boulevard and Union Avenue, when people started gathering at 11 a.m. Authorities told the crowd of about 20 protesters that they were trespassing on the sidewalk and warned they would be arrested if they didn’t leave.
Local residents had recently turned this lot – empty for 30 years – into a community garden in an area where fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce. But the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has plans to sell it and in November, the city sent contract workers to destroy the plantings.
After the arrests, the crowd of about 20 people decided to follow the police cars back to the 40th Precinct, which is about a mile and a half away.”Let them go! Let them go!,” protesters chanted as they walked slowly up Alexander Avenue.
All five were released with a summons after the intervention of Insha Rahman, one of the movement’s lawyers, and two hours of continuous protests outside the police station. The one woman and four men will have to go to court to fight their case and may be fined.
The police declined to comment on the arrests and warned protesters that more arrests could be ahead if the demonstration continues.
“I saw someone getting arrested so I walked up to see if he was OK,” said Shaun Lin, a 28 year-old Brooklynite, minutes after his release. “Then I saw a police man pointing at me and say: ‘Arrest him too.’” Lin, who has been involved in community organizing for five years, said this was his first interaction with the police and that he had not been warned previously that he would be arrested.
“They just came and grabbed five people,” said Elliott Liu, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest. Two years ago, Liu helped with the opening of the Morning Glory garden and organized the protests against its closure. He is now actively involved with Occupy the Bronx, a branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
After the incident, the crowd had grown to about 50 people. All decided to start walking back to Morning Glory, a place symbolic of the community’s struggles to have a say in local affairs.
On two occasions, supporting chants and bravos could be heard from a few high-perched windows in the surrounding buildings as marchers walked past.
“I’m surprised to see them here but it makes me feel good,” said Bronx-native René Figueroa, 44, as he saw the small crowd marching on the Hub, a particularly busy area of the South Bronx on 149th Street and Third Avenue. “The Bronx has to change. I want my kids to grow up in a better place,” said the father of two.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, people should be together,” said Figueroa before going back to his apartment, an issue of the Occupied Wall Street Journal in his hands.