NYPD employs corralling to control crowds

The NYPD have used a technique called corralling on the Occupy Wall Street protesters at the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1, 2011. Protesters are isolated by police and left to either stand for hours or be arrested.
CBS News

In New York City, the police department is trying to make sure the Wall Street protests don't get out of hand, as they have from time to time in Europe. The NYPD is using a controversial technique and CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports on how that works.

Last Saturday afternoon, Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge where police warned them not to go any further.

"If you refuse to leave, you'll be placed under arrest, and charged with disorderly conduct," a police official told the crowd through a bullhorn.

Protesters continued to march anyway with officers in front--in what looked like a police escort. CBS News producer Paula Reid was covering the story.

"And then there was a barricade about a third of the way across -- police vehicles," she said. "And then at the back of the protest, they unraveled an orange gate, and put that across the back of the protest."

Seven hundred protesters were penned in and then arrested.

700 arrested at Brooklyn Bridge protest

"Did you feel in any way that the police department acted in a way that was dishonest?" asked Axelrod.

"No, I wouldn't call it dishonest," said Reid. "But I would say it's contradictory. You say, 'Don't walk on this bridge because it's illegal, you'll be arrested.' But then you walk with them, you lead them."

The technique is called corralling. Protesters are isolated by police and left to either stand for hours or be arrested. It's not new -- Washington, D.C. police used it in the spring of 2000 when protests got out of hand.

Former New York City Police chief William Bratton of Kroll and Associates said the idea is to diffuse tension.

"As far as the idea of corralling and arresting that group," he said, "after a notification was made and after they remained on the roadway, I see nothing wrong with it.

"We have come a long way from the days when hoses and dogs were routinely used to control crowds, and the use of batons was routine."

The courts will sort out whether what happened last Saturday on the Brooklyn Bridge violated constitutional protection to assemble. One lawsuit has already been filed.

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.