MANHATTAN (CN) – Drums sounded from the bottoms of empty water cooler bottles as a small brigade of Occupy Wall Street activists brandished replica fighter planes and images of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to storm a defense contractor and aerospace trade conference in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning.
Before dawn, activists converged at Madison Park, bordering the site of the 17th annual Aerospace & Defense Finance Conference.
Police, including many in riot gear, guarded entrances on every side of the building, and they circled the block in scooters, cars and trucks.
At around 7:30 a.m., about a dozen activists sat down to block the Park Avenue entrance of the Credit Suisse headquarters between 23rd and 24th streets. Each was carried away from the scene in handcuffs.
The activists also lost two miniature replicas of MQ-9 Reapers, modeled after General Atomics’ unmanned hunter-killer aircraft.
Nick Mottern, the 72-year-old designer of the replicas, said that police ordered him to keep his models out of the procession because the roughly 4-foot-wide objects allegedly blocked the sidewalk. He added that he created “nine of them, so far,” two of which have been deployed to New Hampshire and South Carolina in preparation for the presidential primaries.
By 2010, the U.S. Air Force had 57 of the real thing, with plans to buy 272 more, journalist Spencer Ackerman reported.
Mottern, a retired carpenter and journalist, told Courthouse News that he came to his anti-war activism after supporting and fighting in the Vietnam War.
“I volunteered to go to Vietnam,” he said. “After I got out, I worked for the Saigon Post newspaper for 10 months, and I got to travel around the country. I felt like the war was being lost. … Then, I went to journalism school. I started meeting people who told me that I better start reading my history, which I did. I felt so betrayed by the government, and I started doing anti-war activities then.”
By far, the most cited historical figure of the rally was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. president who coined the phrase “military-industrial complex” in his final televised address. Several activists drew, pictured and quoted him on their placards.
One of those placards sketched his partly shadowed face, with a subheading, “Are you the ones this guy warned us about?”
The military contractor executives and employees were already in the building by the time he wielded that sign.
According to an Occupy Wall Street pamphlet, conference attendees included representatives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon. A website for the convention advertised speakers from Rockwell Collins, Allegheny Technologies, CAE and others.
One protester heckled that the police had surrounded the building to arrest the people inside.
“Go for it, guys,” he urged. “The terrorists are inside.”
One officer smiled at that one.
Another demonstrator, Nicholas, made a few passersby chuckle by carrying a tray of apricot tarts with come-ons like “Eat cookies, not cluster bombs” and “White phosphorous will give you heartburn; have a cookie instead.”
Popular chants that morning included: “Guns and bombs and occupation / Do not equal liberation. / That’s bullshit. / Get off it! / The enemy is profit.”
Another went, simply, “Money for books, not bombs.”
That sentence resonated with 38-year-old Justin Addeyo, a father whose 12-year-old son was born around the time he participated in the anti-globalization protests in Seattle.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 12 years,” Addeyo said of the Occupy Wall Street movement.