Protesters march nationwide; over 200 arrested

By Karen Matthews

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 17 2011 3:15 p.m. MST

NEW YORK — Occupy Wall Street protesters clogged streets and tied up traffic 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. More than 200 people were arrested, most of them in New York.

The marches were for the most part peaceful, with only scattered clashes between police and demonstrators. Most of the arrests were for blocking streets, the traffic disruptions were brief, and the turnout, at least in New York, fell well short of what police had been expecting.

Chanting "All day, all week, shut down Wall Street," more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered near the New York Stock Exchange and sat down in several intersections. Helmeted police broke up some of the gatherings, and operations at the stock market were not disrupted.

The street demonstration came two days after police cleared 200 people from New York's Zuccotti Park, shutting down the encampment that served as headquarters of the Occupy movement.

"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."

At least 177 people were arrested in New York alone. Some were bloodied during the arrests. One man was taken into custody for throwing liquid, possibly vinegar, into the faces of several police officers, authorities said. Many demonstrators were carrying vinegar as an antidote for pepper spray.

A police officer needed stitches on his hand after he was hit with a piece of thrown glass, police said.

Later, the crowd split up for rallies elsewhere in the city. Some also planned to head into the subways, then march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

In Los Angeles, about 500 sympathizers, many of them union members, marched downtown between the Bank of America tower and Wells Fargo Plaza, chanting, "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out." More than two dozen people were arrested.

Demonstrations were also planned or under way in such cities as Washington, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. Police arrested 21 demonstrators in Las Vegas, and 20 were led away in plastic handcuffs in Portland, Ore., for sitting down on a bridge.

In Albany, N.Y., about 250 protesters from Buffalo, Rochester and other encampments arrived by bus to join a demonstration in a downtown park.

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 a number of 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.

Thursday's demonstration around Wall Street brought taxis and delivery trucks to a halt, but police were largely effective at keeping the protests confined to just a few blocks. Officers allowed Wall Street workers through the barricades, but only after checking their IDs.

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."

The demonstrators included actor-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.

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."

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.

City officials and demonstrators were trying to decide their next step in Philadelphia, where about 100 protesters were ordered on Wednesday to clear out immediately to make way for a long-planned $50 million plaza renovation at City Hall. Union leaders pressed the demonstrators to leave, saying construction jobs were stake.

Associated Press writer Colleen Long in New York contributed to this story.

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