Occupy Protesters, Cops Struggle to Balance Conflict With Sympathies


Last month's severe injury to an Iraq War veteran at the hands of Oakland police, which was captured on video that was posted on the Internet and widely picked up by the media, could be a turning point.

The relationship between protesters and police had been relatively cordial before that incident, despite the mass arrest of protesters during a march on New York's Brooklyn Bridge in September and other spates.

Everything changed with the Oakland incident, with the dealings between both parties becoming a lot more acrimonious since then. The day after that, protesters in New York confronted police as they marched down Broadway, ignoring calls to stay on the sidewalks. They openly mocked police, hurling insults about how the protesters were like the cops, but the police had "sold out."

"Who are you protecting?" and "You serve your enemy," the demonstrators chanted.

The following day the city moved in and removed Occupy Wall Street's heating supplies, saying having the equipment in the park was a public health risk.

The violence in Oakland has been a flashpoint for New York police.

Ed Mullins, who heads the 5,000-member Sergeant's Benevolent Association of the NYPD, warned the protesters not to take their demonstrations to attacks on police.

"In light of the growing violence attendant to the Occupy movements across the country, particularly as evidenced by the recent events in Oakland, I am compelled to place these so-called 'occupiers' on notice that physical assaults on police officers will not be tolerated," he said.

"I am deeply concerned that protesters will be emboldened by the recent rash of violent acts against police officers in other cities," he said. "New York's police officers are working around the clock as the already overburdened economy in New York is being drained by 'occupiers' who intentionally and maliciously instigate needless and violent confrontations with the police."

At Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street spokesman Anup Desai says what's happening 2,900 miles away in Oakland is having an impact on demonstrators in New York.

"There are no two further cities almost than New York City and Oakland, and together, we were like, you know what? What happened there happened here," he said.

As things turn more adversarial, Gautney says it creates an "interesting tension" for police, who may be caught in the middle.

"Whether or not they agree with (the demonstrators') ideas, they work at the behest of mayors and district attorneys," he said.

It's a point made by Oakland Police Officers Association President Don Arotzarena after the mayor announced that city employees -- with the exception of police -- would be allowed to take Wednesday off to participate in a general strike called by Occupy Oakland.

"I see us being made out to be the bad guy again," he said. "Remember this, we're just taking orders from the mayor's office."

Gautney says she sees things going "probably nowhere good" between demonstrators and police. It is clear local officials are getting more irritated and, at some point, they will be ordering more police moves against the Occupy protesters, she says.

But Desai says the demonstrators are not going anywhere.

"We forget, just 60 years ago it was against the law for black and white people to east together," he said. "So when people say 'oh, you're' breaking the law', well, some laws need to be broken. I don't set timetables, just goals, and we're going to achieve them."

All setting the stage for what could be a long, cold and very tense winter.

ABC News' Seniboye Tienabeso contributed to this report.

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