Thursday, November 17, 2011

New York Cops Arrest Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators

November 17, 2011 7:30 AM

Wall Street clashes start Occupy's day of action

Updated at 9:29 a.m. ET
CBS News

NEW YORK - Police have started to arrest protesters who are sitting on the ground and blocking traffic into New York's financial district.

Police in riot helmets hauled several protesters to their feet at Nassau and Pine streets, one block from Wall Street, and handcuffed them. CBS News station WCBS-TV reports that at least seven people have been arrested.

Some of the police hit protesters as they resisted arrest.

The protesters, numbering in the hundreds, brought taxis and delivery vehicles to a halt as they marched through the financial district.

"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 march comes after anti-Wall Street activists in San Francisco Wednesday swarmed into a Bank of America branch and tried to set up camp in the lobby. About 100 demonstrators rushed into the bank, chanting "money for schools and education, not for banks and corporations."

Thursday's 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."

At Wednesday's San Francisco protest, police in riot gear responded and began cuffing the activists one-by-one as other demonstrators surrounded the building, blocking entrances and exits.

After protesters had dispersed, police said 95 activists were arrested, taken to jail, cited and released.

No injuries were reported in the protest, one of several in the area focusing on school funding.

Willow Curless, 63, said she and her husband rode their bicycles from their home in Marin County and watched the protest from outside the bank.

"I honor these people in there," she said. "They're making an important statement for the 99 percent."

In a separate protest, about 250 demonstrators assembled in front of the State Building in San Francisco for about 90 minutes, with some complaining of higher fees charged to public college students in California.

Elsewhere, students and anti-Wall Street activists settled into a new encampment at the University of California, Berkeley, and visited the state Capitol to demand the restoration of funding for higher education.

At Berkeley, police watched over about two dozen tents that were pitched Tuesday night on a student plaza despite a campus policy that forbids camping. Police warned that protesters could be arrested if they didn't leave.

Seth Weinberg, a 20-year-old cognitive science major, said he slept in a tent on Sproul Plaza to press the university fee issue.

"There should be a way for anyone who wants to go to college if they choose to," Weinberg said. "What the university doesn't understand is that we are not camping out. This is a constant protest."

Another Occupy protest is planned in San Francisco Thursday. About 200 to 300 people are expected to turn out around 2:30 p.m. as the Occupy movement protests low wages being paid to some workers, according to Gene Doherty, a member of the communications team for Occupy San Francisco.

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