The Occupy movement chose St. Patrick’s Day — coincidentally, the movement’s six-month anniversary — to begin its large-scale actions again, and protesters did not receive a warm welcome from the NYPD. That Saturday, police officers quickly broke up their celebration in Zuccotti Park, making scores of arrests the New York Times reported, and early Tuesday morning, the police evicted protesters from Union Square, which had been a camp site since the Zuccotti Park eviction, reported Salon.
But after releasing a large group of the Zuccotti occupiers from jail on Monday morning without charges, the NYPD must have been feeling a little generous, because they sent one protester on his way with the pair of metal handcuffs that were used during his arrest.
Tom Hintze, a 25-year-old protester from Montrose, N.Y., had been working as a bicycle tour guide in Hawaii when he heard about Occupy Wall Street last fall. In October, he jumped on a plane headed for New York and arrived the day 700 people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. On St. Patrick’s Day, when police attempted to clear Zuccotti Park, Hintze huddled together with a large group of people.
“A lot of people didn’t get arrested and they’d just throw them out of the way or handcuff people and let them go afterward. My hypothesis is that they didn’t want the arrest numbers to be that high,” said Hintze.
During his own arrest, Hintze said officers applied pressure points to him before cuffing him — not with the common plastic zip-tie handcuffs, but the old-fashioned metal kind. He said that he and about 25 others were transported by bus to the Midtown South Precinct on 35th Street in Manhattan for processing.
At this point I really like the idea of giving them back and presenting the police with the handcuffs.
Once at the precinct, Hinzte’s arresting officer — whom Hintze identified as Officer Li — removed his possessions, including his backpack, as is common procedure.
After processing, the protesters were transported to their final destination, Manhattan Central Booking at 100 Centre Street on the edge of Chinatown. According to Gideon Oliver, president of the New York City branch of the National Lawyer’s Guild, it’s likely that the NYPD opened additional precincts for processing in order to handle the perfect storm of revolutionaries and unruly St. Patrick’s Day revelers.
Around 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, one of Hintze’s friends came to the jail at to pick up Hintze’s backpack containing his personal belongings.
Hintze said he and about 18 others were released at 3 a.m. on Monday, none of them charged with any crimes. Hintze met up with his friends and retrieved his backpack, inside of which was a surprising souvenir — the same handcuffs that were used to arrest him.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment from MetroFocus at press time.
Gideon Oliver commented that he’s never heard of anything like this happening, but the unusual nature of how the protesters were processed and released might explain how it occurred.
“This is a night when something like 18 people were arrested as part of the eviction, and they were literally just ushered out the back door of 100 Centre Street in the middle of the night without criminal charges, which is extraordinary,” said Oliver. “It’s my suspicion that this [handling mass arrests] is not something Officer Li regularly does. It’s the mass arrest situation that probably created the confusion.”
What will become of the NYPD’s cuffs?
“At this point I really like the idea of giving them back and presenting the police with the handcuffs. Maybe I’ll just leave them on the steps out front,” said Hintze.