My name is Kelly Schomburg, I’m the girl with the red hair in these pictures. I was protesting at the Occupy Wall Street march yesterday when I and several other women were sprayed with mace and subsequently arrested. Many have already seen the video, which has been spreading like wildfire over twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and other video feeds, along with hundreds of other photos and videos. This is my recount of what happened.
I started off the march at noon with all the others, and we marched from Liberty Plaza all the way to Union Square. We were blocked off by policemen at times, but the majority of us sought to avoid any conflict and keep moving. We took up the sidewalks and the streets. We chanted. We were heard.
Upon arriving at Union Square, the police presence erupted. Our group stopped to regroup at the park, which unfortunately gave them time to surround the area and increase their force. We saw the nets coming out and they blocked off the streets; the march started to fray and split into different directions. We tried to turn around and march back to Wall Street, but we were not allowed.
The majority who were moving back to Wall Street headed down 12th Street. When we were between University and 5th Avenue, the place began blocking off the street. I was walking on the sidewalk in a clump with one of my friends and a few other women. Two female police officers blocked our path. We asked them repeatedly why we couldn’t walk down the sidewalk; they refused to talk to us. The one time they spoke was when one officer repeatedly said between her teeth, “do not get in my face. Get out of my face. GET OUT OF MY FACE.” The police force was increasing and blocking off the street from both ends, and not allowing people to cross the road. I was filming the scene with my DSLR.
I looked over, and in a second I saw the officer spraying something into the crowd. I recognized the mace immediately and shut my eyes; though I did deflect some of it, I was not completely successful. The burning set in immediately, and I heard the screaming. I started crying. A few women around me were lying on the ground holding their faces and wailing. My friend grabbed onto me. I dropped my camera, but it kept filming. I was hysterical. I grabbed the woman closest to me, who got hit the hardest (depicted in the first picture with the tank top and the long skirt). She was absolutely hysterical, she couldn’t see. People were running out of local restaurants and bringing us water. The police promised there would be a medic; it never arrived. Some of the other people in the march had seen what happened and half-carried us across the street to get some milk and vinegar for our faces.
During this time, the police were pushing their net up the street towards 5th Ave, and everyone on the sidewalk was being boxed in for arrest. They forced us to move, even though we were visibly suffering. As I was being pushed up the street, another protestor was pouring a milk solution on my face to ease the burning. They forced us all against the wall, and we knew we would be arrested. Everyone asked why; no police officer would respond. I was freaking out. One white-collar officer walked down the line and screamed, “YOU’RE ALL GETTING LOCKED UP!”. Some of the people on the block had not even been involved. Some were getting pushed or dragged under the nets by police so that they would be part of the mass arrest. Others in the area were tackled, beaten, dragged, or tazed by the officers. They put us all in plastic cuffs and placed us in lines. I put my head into my lap and sobbed. The person next to me asked why I was crying, and told me that it would be alright. No one around me had ever been arrested before.
Eventually, they brought in the loads of police vans to bring us to the station. They even utilized one MTA bus to put us on, because there were so many. They walked me to the van, and I waited several minutes to get inside as they prepared it. That is when the second picture was taken.
They drove us to the station, precinct 1. We were forced to wait outside the station, in the vehicles, for almost 2 hours. The police were walking around outside, waiting, talking to each other. About 15-20 minutes in, one officer assured us that we would be moved in a few minutes and we would be processed and out in an hour or two. No one knew what was going on. It was during this time that I severely needed to use the bathroom. For an hour and a half, I asked over and over if I could get an escort to go. It got to the point where I was in so much physical pain that I was crying. I pleaded the cops over and over. Everyone else in the car tried to get their attention. They ignored us. They turned the music up. They told me to wait. It wasn’t until I cried so much that they were forced to face me, that somebody finally found me an escort. They didn’t remove my cuffs. She pulled my pants down for me and watched me. When we were exiting, she said that she didn’t like doing this, she had four kids and she didn’t think this was right. She agreed with our sentiment, but she didn’t understand why we had to be violent. I told her we were peaceful, and that I had been maced and arrested while walking on the sidewalk. She was silent. I looked at every officer who had let me through to use the bathroom and said thank you. They were silent.
I was finally put into the holding cell, where I was reunited with my friend and met with a bunch of the other women involved. Soon after, we were each placed in our own cells: 5 women per 1 person room. I was detained there for between 5 and 6 hours. Some demanded their one phone call, only to be told that they could only make calls within the five boroughs. We sat and waited to be processed.
I was finally released at 1:30 am. I have a court date on November 3rd at 9:30 am. I’m being charged with blocking vehicle traffic and unlawful conduct.