Occupy Wall Street urges May 1 strike over arrests

By Verena Dobnik

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 19 2012 2:25 p.m. MDT

New York City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, center, joins Occupy Wall Street protesters to denounce what they say is the NYPD's excessive use of force against demonstrators, in New York's Zuccotti Park, Monday, March 19, 2012. Police arrested 73 people on Saturday after hundreds of activists had gathered to mark the sixth-month birthday of the movement.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Occupy Wall Street activists on Monday called for supporters to skip work on May 1 to protest what they're calling police brutality during 73 arrests in New York during the weekend.

Several dozen activists joined members of New York's City Council for a news conference in Zuccotti Park to complain about police tactics. On Saturday, police started detaining people after hundreds of Occupy supporters gathered in the park to mark six months since the start of the movement.

Occupy organizers across the country have been mobilizing for months toward a one-day general strike in May.

They're encouraging people to stay out of work and school, and to refrain from spending money. In New York, a coalition of unions and worker justice groups are planning a solidarity march through the city.

Council members at Monday's news conference included Ydanis Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat who denounced police actions, while proposing that the council create a "Protester's Bill of Rights" to establish basic rights.

"I am here today because Saturday night I saw the New York Police Department using brutal, excessive force arresting people who were protesting peacefully," Rodriguez told the news conference. "We are calling on Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly to fight for our constitutional rights as hard as they fight terrorism."

Bloomberg countered that members of the NYPD were respectful of protesters' rights.

"This police department knows how to control crowds without excessive force," the mayor said. "They do allow you to protest but they don't let it get out of hand."

He said police have put up barricades around the park again because protesters were breaking park rules against setting up tents in the privately owned public space.

But Liesbeth Rapp, a 27-year-old activist who was there Saturday, said police "charged" protesters and forced them in groups onto nearby sidewalks.

In tears, Rapp said she ended up next to a young woman who suffered a head injury in the scuffle.

"We were all on the ground, and they were on top of us," she said. "She was holding her head and screaming."

Rapp said officers ignored the woman's call for medical help, and it took more than a quarter of an hour for medics to respond.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ray Kelly's got to go," the activists chanted Monday, referring to the commissioner.

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