NEW YORK — Two days after the encampment that sparked the global Occupy movement was cleared by authorities, demonstrators blocked traffic into New York's financial district on Thursday and promised mass gatherings in other cities.
Hundreds of protesters clogged the streets leading to Wall Street in lower Manhattan, bringing taxis and delivery vehicles to a halt. Police in riot helmets watched the protesters from behind barricades.
"All day, all week, shut down Wall Street!" the crowd chanted. At the corner of Nassau and Pine streets protesters were sitting on the ground and refusing to move.
The protest remained peaceful, and the demonstrators and police were still allowing workers to get to their offices.
Passer-by Gene Williams, a 57-year-old bond trader, joked that he was "one of the bad guys" but that he empathized with the demonstrators.
"They have a point in a lot of ways," he said. "The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it's getting wider."
The day of action had been planned before the city and park owners cracked down on the encampment in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, but took on added importance to the protesters after tents, tarps and sleeping bags were cleared out early Tuesday and the granite plaza was cleaned for the first time since the group arrived more than two months ago.
"This is a critical moment for the movement given what happened the other night," said Paul Knick, 44, 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."
Transit officials were preparing to deal with a crush of people as part of the protest billed as a national day of action. The group announced it would rally near the New York Stock Exchange, then fan out across Manhattan and head to subways, before gathering downtown and marching over the Brooklyn bridge.
Similar protests were planned around the county. New York City officials said they had not spoken to demonstrators but were aware of the plans.
"The protesters are calling for a massive event aimed at disrupting major parts of the city," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said. "We will be prepared for that."