Occupy protesters march nationwide; 300 arrested

By Karen Matthews

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 17 2011 9:26 p.m. MST

Occupy Wall Street protesters crossing the Brooklyn Bridge wave to Manhattan-bound traffic on the roadway below after a rally in Foley Square, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 in New York. Organizers with the Service Employees International Union and progressive groups staged similar bridge marches in several cities in an event that was planned weeks ago, but happened to coincide with rallies marking two months since the start of the Occupy movement.

Henny Ray Abrams, Associated Press

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. Hundreds of people were arrested, most of them in New York.

The demonstrations — which took place in cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, Washington and Portland, Ore. — were for the most part peaceful. Most of the arrests were for blocking streets, and the traffic disruptions were brief.

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

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.

Several weeks ago, an attempt to march across the bridge drew the first significant international attention to the Occupy movement as more than 700 people were arrested.

Thursday's protests came two days after police raided and demolished the encampment at lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park that had served as headquarters of the Occupy movement and as demonstrators and union allies tried to regain their momentum.

"This is a critical moment for the movement given what happened the other night," said demonstrator Paul Knick, a software engineer from Montclair, N.J. "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 300 people were arrested in New York. 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, Matthew Walters, needed 20 stitches on his hand after he was hit with a piece of thrown glass, police said.

In Los Angeles, about 500 sympathizers 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.

Police arrested 21 demonstrators in Las Vegas, and 20 were led away in plastic handcuffs in Portland, Ore., for sitting down on a bridge. At least a dozen were arrested in St. Louis in the evening after they sat down cross-legged and locked arms in an attempt to block a bridge over the Mississippi River. More were handcuffed for blocking bridges in Philadelphia and Minneapolis.

In Chicago, hundreds of protesters organized by labor and community groups marched toward the Chicago River. They stopped at the river bridge and shut it down to rush-hour traffic. Police officers scrambled to divert cars and pedestrians. People watched the protests from office windows and bus stops.

In Seattle, hundreds of Occupy Seattle and labor demonstrators shut down the University Bridge as part of a national day of action demanding jobs. Traffic was snarled around Seattle's University District as two rallies marched toward the bridge.

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