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Protests Mark Two Months Of Occupy Movement

Occupy protesters march through buildings during a rally in Los Angeles, one of several nationwide on Thursday.
Jae C. Hong
Occupy protesters march through buildings during a rally in Los Angeles, one of several nationwide on Thursday.

Thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators took to the streets around the U.S. on Thursday to mark two months since the movement's birth and signal they aren't ready to quit, despite the breakup of many of their encampments by police.

At least 177 people were arrested in New York, many for blocking streets near the New York Stock Exchange. One man was taken into custody for throwing liquid, possibly vinegar, into the faces of several police officers, authorities said. Police in Los Angeles arrested 23 people.

Demonstrations were also planned or under way in such cities as Washington, St. Louis, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore.

New York City

Chanting "All day, all week, shut down Wall Street," more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered near the NYSE and staged sit-ins at several intersections. Helmeted police broke up some of the clusters,and operations at the stock market were not isrupted.

As darkness fell, a coalition of unions and progressive groups joined Occupy demonstrators in staging rallies at landmark bridges in several U.S. cities to protest joblessness.

In New York, a crowd of several thousand people, led by banner-carrying members of the Service Employees International Union, jammed Manhattan's Foley Square and then marched peacefully across the Brooklyn Bridge on a pedestrian promenade.

As they walked, a powerful light projected the slogan "We are the 99 percent," a reference to the Americans who aren't super-rich, on the side of a nearby skyscraper. Police officers dressed in wind breakers, rather than riot gear, arrested at least two dozen people who walked out onto the bridges' roadway but otherwise let the marchers pass without incident.

The protests came two days after police raided and demolished the encampment at New York's Zuccotti Park that had served as headquarters of the Occupy movement.

Police officers arrest demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York on Thursday.
Mary Altaffer / AP
Police officers arrest demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York on Thursday.

"This is a critical moment for the movement given what happened the other night," said Paul Knick, a software engineer from Montclair, N.J., as he marched through the financial district. "It seems like there's a concerted effort to stop the movement, and I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen."

Before protesters got to the stock exchange, they were blocked by hundreds of police officers with metal barricades and horses. Protesters clashed with police in the narrow streets around the stock exchange.

Ray Lewis, a retired Philadelphia police officer, said he's in "solidarity with people who've been exploited by corporate America."

Lewis, who wore his dress blues for the occasion, said New York police should realize they're part of the 99 percent.

"They're victims also. They don't really realize it yet," he said. "Dictator [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg — a representative of corporate America — is ordering them to do what they're doing."

Moments later, New York's finest led Lewis away in handcuffs.

Thursday's demonstration around Wall Street failed to disrupt operations at the stock exchange but brought taxis and delivery trucks to a halt. Police allowed Wall Street workers through the barricades, but only after checking their IDs.

The demonstrators included the actor and director Andre Gregory, who said he hoped the movement would lead to national action on economic injustice.

"It's a possible beginning of something positive," he said.

Police said four officers went to a hospital after a demonstrator threw some kind of liquid in their faces. Many demonstrators were carrying vinegar as an antidote for pepper spray. A police officer needed 20 stitches on his hand after he was hit with a piece of thrown glass, police said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police had been expecting as many as 10,000 protesters based on what activists had been saying online. But he said there had been "minimal disruption."

"Most protesters have, in all fairness, acted responsibly," he said after visiting an injured police officer in the hospital.

Some onlookers applauded the demonstrators from open windows. Others yelled, "Get a job!"

"I don't understand their logic," said Adam Lieberman, as he struggled to navigate police barricades on his way to work at JPMorgan Chase. "When you go into business, you go into business to make as much money as you can. And that's what banks do. They're trying to make a profit."

Gene Williams, a bond trader, joked that he was "one of the bad guys" but said he empathized with the demonstrators: "The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor, and it's getting wider."

Other Cities

The confrontations followed early-morning arrests in other cities. In Dallas, police evicted dozens of protesters near City Hall, citing health and safety reasons. Eighteen protesters were arrested. Two demonstrators were arrested and about 20 tents removed at the University of California, Berkeley.

About 500 sympathizers, many of them union members, marched in downtown Los Angeles between the Bank of America tower and Wells Fargo plaza, chanting, "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

Some in the crowd, like Casey Riley, a part-time student and waitress, said her future looks dismal with rising tuition and housing costs.

"I'm here to express that I'm not exactly sure what is wrong but things are wrong and things need to change," she said.

In Philadelphia, members of the Occupy movement applied for a permit to move from their current encampment.

Protesters disrupted the weekly meeting of Philadelphia City Council, holding their own votes on everything from a tip bill to rescinding the stricter curfews approved by City Council several weeks ago.

Outside the meeting, protester TJ Ghose said the group disrupted City Council to make a point.

"We are building a police state within this democracy, so as a professor, as a citizen, as someone who is part of the Occupy movement, we wanted to take back the democratic process," he said.

Minutes after the disruption, Mayor Michael Nutter said he received a permit application from at least part of Occupy to move across the street from City Hall.

In Chicago, workers checked microphones early for the rally being held at the James R. Thompson Center downtown.

Will Attig, 26, a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he wants to support the message that the country should focus on jobs.

"I came home two years ago after serving for 6 1/2 years as a staff sergeant and I couldn't find a job stacking sodas on a shelf," he said.

Attig has a job now as a union pipefitter, but says too many veterans are unemployed.

The city wouldn't let Occupy Chicago establish a permanent site. Instead the movement maintains an around-the-clock presence on the sidewalks near Chicago's financial district.

In Albany, N.Y., about 250 protesters from Buffalo, Rochester and other encampments arrived by bus to join a demonstration in a downtown park. Police in Portland, Ore., closed a bridge in preparation for a march there and later detained more than a dozen people who sat down on the span.

The street demonstrations marked two months since the Occupy movement sprang to life in New York on Sept. 17. They were planned well before police raided encampments over the past few days, but were seen by some activists as a way to demonstrate their resolve in the wake of the crackdown.

NPR's Joel Rose, Carrie Kahn, Cheryl Corley and Tom MacDonald of member station WHYY contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff and Wires