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I’m retired and now live in Florida. I worked in lower Manhattan for 40 years and lived in Manhattan for about eight of those years. Despite NYC’s reputation, especially in the 1970s, I always knew where I could go and when and never really felt threatened by street violence in all those years. I maintained situational awareness, I guess. That is until late winter 2013 near the end of my time there.
One morning after arriving in Manhattan at 8 AM via the NY Waterways ferry to the east end of Wall Street, I started to walk the half mile to my office along Water Street and then Maiden Lane. On that morning, the streets were empty of pedestrians but I noticed that down the block and on the other side of Water Street, the NYPD was shepherding a large group of Occupy Wall Street activists on the sidewalk. The police seemed to have the group concentrated in a semi-orderly fashion. About four cops flanked the group by walking next to them in the street.
The Occupy group had been downtown since Autumn 2011 and had become a regular feature of the Wall Street area. They marched here and there in order to block regular pedestrians and traffic and to generally make their presence known. They also took over a small park (Zuccotti Park) where I sometimes went after lunch on nice days. This ended after the Occupy people set up tents throughout the whole park. The scene was one of dirt and squalor. The activists defecated in the foyers of buildings adjacent to the park and demanded free food from area shops. This park, diagonally across from the World Trade Center site, had become a “No Go” zone for the regular population of the area. I thought the police to be strangely quiescent to all of this, but business commuters like me did not feel physically threatened.
On this morning in 2013, I was walking far out in front of the Occupy marchers who were now back and around the corner on Water Street or so I thought. I was on the opposite side of Maiden Lane from where they would walk anyway and thought myself alone on an empty sidewalk. Of course, I was thinking about the upcoming day at work.
In fact, one of the Occupy activists had separated himself from the main group, singled me out and came running at me from behind. I didn’t hear him, but suddenly received a violent blow against my right shoulder. Totally caught by surprise, I spun around in an attempt to keep my balance and not crash to the pavement. The Occupy Wall Street activist had run at me from behind at full speed in order to straight-arm me down to the sidewalk. After hitting me from behind, this young man continued running as fast as he could down the street (west on Maiden Lane). I caught myself just in time and didn’t fall to the pavement. I was very shaken and could not believe what had just happened.
At the time I was 62 years old, wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase. In short, I must have appeared to be one of the “enemy.” Had I gone tumbling to the pavement more than just my clothes would have been ripped. The moral of all this is that whether they call themselves Occupy Wall Street, Antifa, or BLM these are violent people who intend to cause you physical harm. Things have escalated since 2013 so never think of yourself as a “neutral civilian” if they are around.