A Protester’s Uneasy Presence at Occupy Wall Street

Brandon Watts, the Occupy Wall Street protester photographed with a bloody face after a confrontation with the police at Zuccotti Park, became a symbol of the movement for supporters and detractors alike. Mr. Watts’s lawyer and family, though, say he is not an inspired activist but a deeply troubled young man.

Most people saw Mr. Watts for the first time after the nationwide demonstrations on Nov. 17, when the image of him with blood soaking his hair and dripping down his face fed accusations of excessive force by the police. But others recognized him as a constant, and sometimes uneasy, presence at the protests.

Protesters interviewed by The Daily News said that Mr. Watts had been one of the first to pitch a tent in Zuccotti Park. In an interview with The New York Times Magazine in October, Mr. Watts described conflict with the police on the Brooklyn Bridge: “I caught cops on a bad day, a bad week, and they did stupid stuff,” he said. “The police threw me over the barricades.” (He also told the magazine he had just lost his virginity and “was amped for it.”)

Mr. Watts has been arrested six times since he came to New York for Occupy Wall Street, according to his lawyer, Martin Stolar, including his arrest on Nov. 17, when he was charged with felony assault and grand larceny after the police said he threw a AAA battery at the police and stole a deputy’s hat. In October, he was charged with resisting arrest after the police said he bragged to them that he had stolen some of the orange netting they use to contain crowds. He has four separate misdemeanor charges, Mr. Stolar said.

“You see from the nature of the arrests that Brandon has accumulated, they are clearly arrests of a provocative young man who is seeking attention,” Mr. Stolar said.

Elizabeth Flock, a Washington Post blogger who followed protesters marching from New York to Washington, recognized the bloodied protester as a man who had joined the marchers for a stint and “gave the march medic and co-organizers the most cause for worry,” in part because he expressed impatience “that the marchers had not yet had a clash with police.”

Ms. Flock wrote that Mr. Watts had tried to pick up a deer carcass on the side of the road, and told marchers that he had lived alone in the woods for years.

Mr. Watts’s sister, Laura Nagy, said that he had lived in group homes and with a series of relatives until shortly before joining the protests. She said that he had suffered abuse as a child and could be aggressive, particularly when confronted.

“In the past, he’s done stuff, and afterwards, he’s like, ‘I’m sorry.’ You would have to tell him about it and everything would be fine,” said Ms. Nagy, 18. “But then it happens over and over, and there’s nothing really to help him.”

Family members are in contact with Mr. Watts on his Facebook page, where Ms. Nagy wrote a loving note shortly before the incident. “I know you are doing a great thing but if you are in trouble with the cops, turn yourself in,” she wrote on Nov. 15. “I don’t want to see you hurt.”

Mr. Stolar said last week that he had made arrangements for his client to be seen at Fountain House, a community-based mental health facility in Times Square.

While some supporters of Occupy Wall Street cited Mr. Watts’s injuries as evidence of police brutality, opponents seized on his rebellion, calling him a “thug martyr” and a “punk.”

An essay in the National Review detailed his conflicts with law enforcement, reserving judgment of Mr. Watts himself but criticizing Occupy Wall Street because it “attracts, enables and defends people like him.”

Mr. Watts appeared in court last week for scheduling, after Occupy Wall Street had paid his bail. In the meantime, a New York pornography director has written an open letter asking Mr. Watts to star in a production.

Perhaps tired of the attention, Mr. Watts was photographed covering his face as he left the courthouse.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Affiliate | Settlement Statement
Go to Source