Ben Koatz, 17, Describes Arrest and Detainment Following Saturday's Occupy Wall Street Protest

ben koatz.JPG
Ben Koatz
Ben Koatz is a senior at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan. He's 17, from Queens, and writes for the school newspaper. He's also among the 80-90 people arrested during Occupy Wall Street's march on Union Square this past Saturday. Ben gave us an account of his arrest for disorderly conduct and detainment that day that's the most detailed we've heard so far. He says that he "fell in love with the fact that [Occupy Wall Street] was a direct democratic process" and started going down to Zuccotti Park every day before the chaos of Saturday with some of his friends from school. (Keep in mind that this is the account of just one protester and doesn't necessarily speak to the experiences of others.)

Runnin' Scared: Can you tell me what happened to you on Saturday?
We started around 12 or 12:30 in Zuccotti Park, which was renamed Liberty Park by the protesters. We started making our way up -- I wasn't paying attention to exactly what streets, but we made a lot of twists and turns based on which streets cops barricaded and where they led us. We made it to a couple blocks below Union Square when the police formed a line and split off the protest into two separate groups. There was one group of a couple hundred people, one of closer to a thousand people [ed: Numbers have not been confirmed at this time]. I was part of the bigger group that made it to Union Square. People were joining us all the way up, it was totally peaceful. We were just doing what protesters do in a march. So we made it up to Union Square and made speeches and stuff, and chanted. After a while we decided we all wanted to go home, meaning back to Zuccotti Park. My legs were tired. We started chanting, "Let's go home, let's go home."

The police brought out the orange kettling nets as we turned around. They had used them a couple blocks before but they had basically been measured about it. Now they were using them to cause confusion. Kettling -- basically, it's like we were popcorn kernels, like we were stuck in a bag -- so we started agitating. It's my belief that it's the police really caused much of the chaos that broke out around Union Square.

We didn't know which way to go. Some people were yelling "this way!" and others were yelling "that way!"

Then what?
Then the police started beating protesters. As you saw in the video, they maced those innocent women [ed: It was actually pepper spray]. I saw them punch a girl who couldn't have been more than 16 or 17. They were dragging people by their hair.

I personally escaped the mayhem with about 50 other people. We walked down 12th Street to University Place, I think. At that point, there was police netting there, too. We were all tired and too scared to turn around and go back. The cops told us that if we waited and were peaceable they would let us through. So we're sitting there and chanting. The people outside the barricade were calling for us to be let go.

We started moving around because we got a bunch of conflicting police orders. One cop told us to go one way, another said another way. While that was going on they brought another net from the other side of 12th Street. We were netted in on both sides. [ed: DCPI wouldn't confirm or deny any of this; the officer said "there were numerous arrests in that area" and that they couldn't speak to specific incidents.]

Did you get out?
One white-shirted cop and a bunch of blue shirts approached. They wordlessly threw a man against the wall and handcuffed him. After that arrest they told us all to stand against the wall. I was one of the last people to be arrested. I kept asking what I did wrong, saying I'm just a kid, I'm a minor, I want to go home and do my homework. I remember a cop saying "your pleas fall on deaf ears."

OWS saturday.jpg
Nick Pinto
Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park on Saturday.
A cop turned me around and arrested me and we all sat against the wall. We weren't informed of why we were being arrested and very few of us were actually told we were under arrest, but I don't know if that's a thing.

How did they take all of you down to be booked?
After 20 minutes they took us into different vehicles. I got into a bus with about 35 other people and about seven cops. There were people outside the bus chanting. My handcuffs were really loose and I managed to raise up my hand and do a peace sign to everyone outside the bus. Everyone did a peace sign back.

I was crying at some points because it was my first time being arrested. I was so flustered by the entire situation.

The bus ride lasted an hour. We drove from 12th and University to One Police Plaza. We tried to keep it as jovial as we could; we made jokes. Some guy pressed the "stop requested" button about five minutes after the door closed.

We got to One Police Plaza and they kept counting and recounting us in the bus for 45 minutes. They had one male cop count the men, one female cop for the women, and they still weren't satisfied. One woman was messing up the count because she was very androgynous-looking; they pulled her out of the bus and asked if she was a man or a woman.

Then me and seven other people were put into a van where we waited another 35 minutes. A couple of officers came by and talked to us. I don't know if this was "good cop-bad cop," but if they were genuine, the cops started agreeing with us. They were asking why the protest is going on, and we gave them our explanations. They're working class guys whose pensions are at stake. Ideologically they were with us. The blue shirted cops were nice, the white shirt ones, not so much.

One guy said "I don't know why I'm doing this, I'm sorry you have to go through this."


My Voice Nation Help
35 comments
ahmadj303
ahmadj303

Russia and Iran laugh at you Americans, preying on your society's fears and doubts, and you dance for them with these drama plays like unwitting dogs.

You people do not have a GLOBAL perspective. You think domestic affairs, like your average salary, are that significant compared to the international worldview? Get real.

These protesters do NOT have an organized plan of reform, and that is why they are stuck to the fringe minority. Sigh...liberals, honestly. I guess I'm best stuck with the conservatives.

The Devils Spawn
The Devils Spawn like.author.displayName 1 Like

Does Mr. Koatz even have an idea what he was protesting? Nothing in his relating of the events mentions whether or not he understands what's being protested. It's so easy to just blame "Wall Street" for all the countries problems. Unfortunately that is far from the entire picture. Now that the labor unions have gotten themselves involved one has to wonder exactly who is benefiting from this protest. Ya gotta love the fact that in one war or the other all of the protestors are either wearing or using products of "Evil Corporations".

Bkoatz
Bkoatz

Dear The Devils Spawn,

Thank you for your concern, but I know exactly what I am protesting against, which is one of the reasons my arrest was so painful to experience.

I'm protesting the fact that, because corporate campaign donation are unfettered following the "Citizen's United" Court ruling, people with money can have more influence on politicians than their poor counterparts (composing of 1/6 of Americans, according to the last Census check), and that this is fundamentally undemocratic in nature. I'm protesting the sad, sad fact that marching on Washington and marching on Wall Street is basically railing against the same people, because lobbyists have undue influence on our politicians, who - without effective campaign finance regulation to keep them honest - respond more to their top donors than to the majority of their constituents. I am protesting against the fact that, because of this system of legalized bribery and corruption, ineffective legislation, and even harmful legislation, has been the main product of our government. I am protesting the fact that 1% of Americans - holding almost 50% of our country's financial assets - have more wealth than 160,000 million of us, and that this is just a product of a system that is of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.

Concerning specific legislation agenda - I would like to see the end to fractional reserve lending, the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or AT LEAST the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Bill, a far more progressive tax structure, focusing on lowering corporate tax levels, while eliminating loopholes and raising the income tax and capital gains tax for the wealthiest Americans. I would like to see the end of lobbying, a campaign finance limit of a one-time 2,000 dollars donation from any corporation, individual or union. I want an end to too big to fail. If you are too big to fail, you are TOO BIG. I want a bailout for the people. I want legitimate stimulus, not the half-assed measures passed by both political parties either in the form of feeding government coffers or offering tax breaks to the rich. I want infrastructure investment. I want accountability for crimes in the financial sector. 

I want a lot of things, but those are the most prevalent and pressing matters. I know why I'm out there. Which makes it all the more sad that I was arrested for protesting for them.

So please, feel free to respond to my points. Before you say it, I am not a Democrat, I do not support Obama with a blank check. I am not a puppet of George Soros. I was there before the Unions and will be in solidarity with the protest and the movement long after they leave.

I am not anti-corporation. That's why I can use Apple products with a clean conscience. I just want Apple making my phones, not buying my politicians. And I am NOT anti-capitalist, because I am against the current system and that system is about as far from capitalism as you can get. I just want a revival of democracy, and an end corporatocracy.

Thanks for reading all the way down here. I look forward to your response.

Respectfully,

Mr. Koatz

ahmadj303
ahmadj303

@Bkoatz Benjamin, your intentions are honest, and you are as you have ever been a highly intelligent student. I do not want to debate economics or financial reforms with you, you are far too smart for that. I just want to mention a small fact you may have missed in your enthusiasm to call for change.

But you're Jewish, are you not? Koatz is a Jewish name, at least. Do you not what many of the protesters are saying about Zionists and Jews? They think Jews are parasites who control America's media and banks. Have you read any of the signs they've been holding at recent protests? Do you agree with them as well if they rant about breaking all ties with Israel?

The concerns they have are VALID, I do not deny that. The economy DOES need reform, but you must regard everything from EVERY possible perspective, and some of these protesters are just children who know nothing about the economy, they're just conspiracy theorists who like to make a big name for themselves in the news.


ahmadj303
ahmadj303

Anyway, I admire your ability to speak out against corporate corruption, as you call it, but surely there are more mature ways to express your views than this.

The Devils Spawn
The Devils Spawn like.author.displayName 1 Like

Thank you for your intelligent and well thought out response Mr. Koatz. In fact, I agree with most of your dissertation. Yet, I disagree in what the real issues are. I believe strongly that all that you mentioned, even if enacted, would do nothing the solve the underlying issues, which is a sense of entitlement in just about all involved. Please forgive the personal nature of my response, but I will take your own family experience to make my point.

1. The so-named "Baby Boomers" (which I am one as are your parents). The issue here is the fact that the Baby Boomer generation is, to put in plain english, easily the most selfish in American history. They simply will not give up what they feel they are "entitled" to, meaning helping fix Social Security and Medicare, which we all know that if continued on it's present path, will be insolvent way before you will be able to garner any benefit. Yet you will be paying into it as soon as you begin your working life. The dirty little secret is that the generation now entering into the system refuses to do anything to fix it. The same goes for Medicare and Medicaid, which Obamacare does nothing to relieve. Since these are the people running the country at this time, I don't see much in the way of healing the system.

2. The legal system - The simple truth that everybody knows but will not say is that the legal system in this country is broken. It favors those with money who can hire the best attorneys. It's also become unintelligeable to the average person in this country. Don't believe me? Just read some of the Terms of Agreement on most of the websites you visit. I've read them and for the most part I can't make heads or tails of much of it. Personally, I believe that the legal system in this country has become almost unconstitutional in itsself, but that's an argument for another day. One more thing. The courts of this country have become dictorial fiefdoms for many judges who abuse their power endlessly. Until we begin to address this issue, the lawyers, judges, politicians, and corporations that can hire the best will always stay one step ahead. Ask your father what he thinks about this.

3. The education system. Now Ben, I know you are now a student at Stuyversant HS, and I applaud you. Yet it wasn't as simple as it seems. You were blessed to have parents that were able to afford your attending private school before your entrance to Stuyversant, which also applies to your younger brother. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, except it's telling that your mother was a teacher in the NYC shool system and a member in good standing a the United Federation of Teachers Union which opposes charter schools for children in poverty stricken neighborhoods. And who are the teacher that will protect the status quo? Yes Ben, most of them are just like your parents, baby boomers who claim progressiveness as long as they don't have to sacrifice a thing.

Think about it.

Anonymous
Anonymous

YAY BEN!I feel honored to have had you as a Big Sib.

R
R

Amazing that the right to "freedom to assemble" is taken.. So now, we have no freedom of speech, we have no freedom of religious rights without persecutions, and now no freedom of assembly. America Home of the Slaves! 

Ottoman633
Ottoman633

i say when they arrest people and ask them their names, say your name is "AMERICA", let them have the fun of researching your real name!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

The movement is gaining momentum after a week and a half andOccupy movements are popping up all over the country!  Stand up together and use your voice to giveto those without.  Tax the rich and feedthe poor- you are the 99%!  See my OccupyWall Street painting and Anonymous homage on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot...where you can also see videos of the protests and police brutality as well asget other sources for real coverage of the movement.  

Lari Frank
Lari Frank

I know this young man personally and I'm hear to tell you that everyone should have a child at home just like this one.  He's whip smart, personable, conscientious and involved.  The idea that somehow he and the other people deserved the arrest (take a look at the footage) for peaceful disobedience is simply ignorant, specifically of our rights as citizens.  Good journalist too as the coverage on this has been less than good.  I hope the consequences of this arrest do not harm him.  The young people have every right to voice their outrage as they will inherit the results of the lack  of care we have for our economy, country and citizenry.  

Joe_Lynn
Joe_Lynn

I'm a little underwhelmed, but, doesn't it occur to anyone that labeling a  protest 'Occupy' Wall Street should be a tip off that one is about to become cannon fodder for a hyperbolic political drama production?

Enmach
Enmach

Thanks for the actual journalism here. The NYT's coverage has to date sucked ass on this topic.

NaiveNoMore
NaiveNoMore

Fear is the objective here. If the police (who are controlled by the government, which is controlled by the corporations and Wall St.) can incite enough fear into the protesters and observers, they can "legally" discourage Americans for exercising our Constitutional rights. Just like the old Jim Crow laws.

Silence the people so the corporations can keep on abusing us.

"Don't you dare demonstrate against our white collar crimes, or we'll:* have you arrested and give you a criminal record;* keep you from going to college;* keep you from getting a job;* etc."

"Oh, okay, I'm sorry, don't know what I was thinking or doing... I'll humbly comply, O Master Corporations, O Great Hand that feeds me and on which my life depends!!!"

Works every time.

The Devils Spawn
The Devils Spawn like.author.displayName 1 Like

NaiveNoMore??? I don't think so. Now that a cute 17 year old with something to lose gets arrested, people pay attention. Do you have a clue how many young black and hispanic men get stopped and frisked every fucking day? Just a pinch of weed in their pocket and boom, a record. Where are the fucking protestors for them? Now that your college education might be compromised you protest. More cracker bullshit, and I ain't even black. LOL

Cowboy Coder
Cowboy Coder

College debt is slavery. If this ruins his chances at college, it's not a college that would do him any good, and they'd be doing him a favor by keeping him from crippling debt in return for a substandard so-called education.

Max F
Max F

Regardless, if he can afford the education, or get a scholarship (he does attend Stuyvesant High School), and he'd like to go, then he should. He obviously cares, as it was mentioned in the article. So don't tout his desire and give the police some sort of recognition for what they did.

NOTAFRAID
NOTAFRAID

sounds like Avery and the 17 year old have that AFRAID thing down pat ~

FieryLocks
FieryLocks

Avery seems like the type of person that is very content with living in a bubble and believing that 'they' will never come after them once they've come for everyone else.People who sit by and make excuses for police and government abuses of power arenot only afraid they are complacent cohorts.

Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel

@FieryLocks Avery is the type of person who Hannah Arendt described as the banality of evil. People like Avery would sign up for jobs in concentration camps and then use the excuse that they were just following orders. Avery is the type of person who would unquestioningly follow orders and like those people in the Milgram experiment.

Avery
Avery like.author.displayName 1 Like

"He says he hasn't been back to the protests since Saturday for fear of being arrested". Sounds like, despite all his complaints, the police did their job effectively.

Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel

@Avery You're a little bitch Avery. Nothing in this country got accomplished without protest. How do you think we got 40 hour work week, child labor laws, and OSHA regulations? People had to die for those things, and you're on here spouting pro-authoritarian talking points? Fuck off and get cancer, you piece of shit.

National
National

It's time we now do our job effectively: We got your back. Speak truth to power.

Chromaxome113
Chromaxome113

Also, saying the "police did their job effectively" does not mean they did their job well. They arrested many, and used pepper spray, which, while not necessarily lethal, it can be. There have been numerous incidents where someone with asthma was attacked with the spray and they died. That white-shirted policeman took no consideration for who he was spraying, and he did it recklessly and unnecessarily. They were brutal to a non-violent group. Stop making excuses for yourself; if you don't support American's rights, don't be an American.

FieryLocks
FieryLocks

Oh yeah, arresting citizens for practicing their Constitutional rights is a-okay with you I see.

Avery
Avery like.author.displayName 1 Like

Nobody has a Constitutional right to sleep overnight in a PRIVATE park. That's trespassing.

ahmadj303
ahmadj303

@Casey Stengel I disagree. Corruption, if you can call it that, is present in EVERY democratic society. It's ridiculous, is EVERYONE who protests against the government to be made heroes or even martyrs of some kind.

And even if these "corporate bankers" are all removed, I am not so sure if I want someone like Mr. Stengel in their place. 

Joe_Wolf
Joe_Wolf

Was this kid even IN the park? Your point is therefore irrelevant.

Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel

@Avery And you're nothing but a boot licking authoritarian bitch. Your point?

Max F
Max F

And you're trying to tell me that Zucotti Park is private? Privately-owned Public park. Not to mention the obvious fact that Ben attended these protests after school. And not only are these protests not ILLEGAL, but they're one of the principles this country was founded on. Avery, learn some American history, but more importantly, learn some respect. 

Anonymous
Anonymous

He didn't go back because he has more to lose than the other protesters. If the arrest goes on his transcript, he could potential lose the chance to get into a good college. 

And when police officers use unnecessary force does that equal a job well done? If that is the case, why don't we just kill everybody that commits a crime? It would be an even better deterrent than using pepper spray and arresting innocent people. 

Avery
Avery like.author.displayName 1 Like

He wasn't injured. He was a lawbreaker before and now he's a law-abiding citizen. It's as simple as not getting jelly on your PB&J sandwich.

Ben
Ben

Sounds like he was arrested on the street, not in the park. And it doesn't sound like he was breaking any laws.

FieryLocks
FieryLocks

Exactly what laws did he break? Since when is your Constitutional right to protest and petition your government illegal? Have you not watched any of the videos that clearly show unprovoked police brutality? Obviously not.

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...