Monday, October 3, 2011

TWU blasts city for putting handcuffed Occupy Wall Street protesters on buses

Occupy Wall Street protesters and police officers on Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.

Occupy Wall Street protesters and police officers on Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.

he Transport Workers Union will go to court Monday to try to stop the city from forcing bus drivers to transport Wall Street protesters arrested by the NYPD, the Daily News has learned.

The union, whose leaders voted last week to support the protesters, said police brass commandeered three MTA buses to transport many of the 700 demonstrators arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.

Union President John Samuelsen called ordering bus drivers to drive prisoners "a blatant act of political retaliation."

Police brass had no immediate comment on Samuelsen's comments Sunday night.

"TWU Local 100 supports the protesters on Wall Street and takes great offense that the mayor and NYPD have ordered operators to transport citizens who were exercising their constitutional right to protest - and shouldn't have been arrested in the first place," Samuelsen said Sunday night.

At least five empty buses were commandeered from terminal points on both sides of the bridge, Samuelsen said.

In some cases, MTA supervisors ordered drivers to follow the directive.

Hundreds of anti-capitalist protesters have flooded the area around Wall Street to demonstrate against corporate greed. For over two weeks, Occupy Wall Street activists have occupied the financial district and camped out in nearby Zuccotti Park.  <br><br> With the protest entering a third week, Mayor Bloomberg is making no guarantees that it will go on indefinitely. <br><br> '<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/09/30/2011-09-30_mayor_bloomberg_to_wall_street_protesters_well_see_if_you_can_stay_as_long_as_yo.html" target="_blank">We'll see</a>,' he said on Sept. 30 when asked on his weekly radio show if he'll let the protesters stay as long as they want.

On Sept. 27, over 700 hundred Continental and United pilots, joined by additional pilots from other Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) carriers joined the protest. <br><br>  The pilots are concerned about the lack of progress on negotiations for the pilot's joint collective bargaining agreement with the upcoming airline merger.

Occupy Wall Street protesters sleep in Zucotti Park. Activists have been occupying the park in downtown Manhattan and marching on Wall Street since Sept. 17.

Their marches have expanded uptown and into the streets, which has caused backlash from the NYPD ...

"The MTA has a long history of cooperating with the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies when they require vehicles to perform their duties," said Jeremy Soffin, MTA spokesman.

But that violates the contract between Local 100 and the MTA, Samuelsen said.

"Our mission is to provide transit service to the riding public, not transport people who were arrested," he said.

The mass roundup on the bridge did little to stifle the protesters: Hundreds went right back to the rally after getting sprung.

"Just because we're being arrested, we're not being silenced," said Robert Grodt, 24.

"You go to Italy, you eat gelato. You go to a protest, you expect to be arrested," said Daniel Levine, 22, a Baruch College journalism student.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said 700 people received summonses and eight were held - three for outstanding warrants and five for not providing ID.

He did not immediately comment on the TWU seeking an injunction.

The nebulous protest against corporate greed, income inequality and tax breaks for fat cats enters its third week with growing crowds, a higher media profile and a big union march set for Wednesday.

Cops and protesters argued over whether demonstrators Saturday defied orders to stay on the bridge's pedestrian walkway or were lured into a trap by cops who said they could use the roadway.

The NYPD released a video showing a captain with a bullhorn telling a teeming throng, "I'm ordering you to leave this roadway now. If you do so voluntarily, no charges will be placed against you."

The crowd responded with chants of "Take Our Bridge" and linked arms as protesters on the walkway cheered them.

The Brooklyn-bound lanes of the bridge were closed for nearly three hours as cops rounded up protesters.

"The protestors were warned: Stay off the roadway," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Protester videos showed a column of marchers entering the car lanes with officers walking calmly at their head.

"The cops led us onto that street," said Casey O'Neill, 34, who quit his computer job in California to join the protest. 

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