Two people were arrested in New York City Saturday night after protesters, some with possible Occupy Wall Street connections, vandalized storefronts in what was described as “black bloc” tactics, the New York Times reported. Gothamist reports that a long-time Occupy organizer was one of those arrested for attacking a NYPD officer with a metal pipe:
41-year-old Alexander Penley, is an attorney and has been an Occupy Wall Street organizer since the movement began in the fall.
Penley, along with 30-year-old Nicholas Thommen, were arrested around 10 p.m. after what witnesses described as a violent scuffle between the two men and police officers, and are charged with a litany of offenses, including assaulting a police officer, menacing, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, and inciting a riot.
The NYPD’s press release on the arrests refers to them as “anarchist-related arrests of individuals among a group of 25 who fought with police and who had tried to use eight-foot-long galvanized metal pipes to smash windows of a Starbucks at Astor Place and Lafayette Street at 8:45 p.m.” The police also claim that patrons of Starbucks were hiding under the tables during the incident.
A black bloc is a protest tactic where protesters wear black clothing and mask their faces to make it harder for police to pick out individuals.
Tim Pool, who livecasts Occupy events, filmed police cars blocking off Tompkins Square Park around 9: 20 p.m., according to the Times. In his video, he narrates that “after the Anarchist Book Fair supposedly a black bloc formed and there was a lot of property destruction, a few windows broken.”
“We heard that a few people tried to smash some Starbucks windows and ‘some Mafioso-looking guys came out with big poles and started swinging them,’” Pool narrates. “Apparently they’re still on the move too, we just don’t know where they are,” he adds later.
The East Village blog EV Grieve reported people around the park said protesters smashed windows at Starbucks and a 7-11.
“About 50 ppl dressed in black bashing windows, attacking 7-11 sign, chanting ‘nypd go to hell,’” Twitter user @Ewingweb tweeted at 8:57 p.m.
According to Gothamist, the two arrests occurred an hour later outside a nearby community center after bottles were reportedly thrown from the roof during an after-party for the anarchist event. However, attendees told Gothamist their party was unrelated to the unrest.
The exact degree to which the vandalizing protesters were connected with Occupy remains unclear. Twitter user @mcompost, a self-described “anarchist legal worker,” said the protest began as a 60-person large “FTP [F--k the Police] march.”
“These folks are making oo [Occupy Oakland] look like a bunch of hippies! so many bottles…” he tweeted. He later added: “And there go the 7 11 windows.”
Local shop Ray’s Candy Store, which has served “Occupy fries” in honor of the movement, tweeted several messages in disgust of Saturday’s events.
“ATTN: #OWS- Your actions tonight in the #EastVillage were abhorrent. Any sympathy people may have for your movement suffers with this crap,” @RaysCandyStore tweeted.
As The Blaze previously reported, an Occupy Wall Street march in January featured black bloc tactics.
In a video posted Sunday, veteran activist organizer Lisa Fithian — who has provided training for Occupy Wall Street-affiliated groups — discussed the black bloc tactic and its origins in Germany in the 1970s. Fithian said she doesn’t personally like black blocs because they’re vulnerable to infiltration — undercover police officers can easily slip in — and prefers to “work strategically, but know that we have different ways that we need to work.”
More on the use of black blocs and Occupy: