Occupy Wall Street birthday draws fewer protesters, more arrests
By Bloomberg | September 17, 2012 3:50 pm
New York City police on Monday arrested 124 Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrating the movement's first birthday as events drew fewer participants than similar demonstrations in May.
Hundreds of marchers took to the streets just after dawn from Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, the physical birthplace and symbolic heart of the global movement. Police on foot, motorcycle and horseback trailed them at every turn.
The protests failed to keep the markets from opening as scheduled, although some commuters were inconvenienced as police blocked off parts of the Financial District near the NYSE and asked transit officials to close the Broad Street subway station.
Monday's numbers contrast with Occupy Wall Street's last major public event, on May 1, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators across the U.S. as protesters sang in Manhattan's Union Square, smashed windows in Seattle and seized a vacant building in San Francisco. In New York, 34 were arrested in the May Day rallies.
Most of Monday's arrests were for disorderly conduct for impeding vehicular or pedestrian traffic, and follow more than 40 others over the weekend, said Paul Browne, a police spokesman. Police are “accommodating lawful protests” and making arrests for crimes such as blocking traffic, Mr. Browne said in an e-mail.
Members of the movement are seeking to revive the energy and emotion generated when thousands took to the streets to protest income disparity, corporate greed and the influence of money on politics. Protesters say the wealthiest 1% of Americans benefit at the expense of the rest.
Corporate targets of Monday's disruption include the Broadway retail branches of Bank of America Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase, along with Deutsche Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and American International Group, according to planning materials. Events are scheduled in at least 15 other cities, including Asheville, N.C., and Hilo, Hawaii.
Occupy units across the U.S. coalesced last year to protest high foreclosure and unemployment rates that hurt average Americans while bankers and financial executives received bonuses and taxpayer-funded bailouts. Similar groups, using social media and other tools, spread around the globe to Europe, Asia and Latin America. Governments responded with concussion grenades, gas, riot gear, pepper spray and arrests.
Before this weekend, there had been more than 2,000 arrests related to Occupy Wall Street since its inception. About 352 cases were still pending as of Sept. 12, Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office, said in an e-mail. More than 790 of them accepted offers to have their charges dismissed if they aren't arrested within six months, while more than 240 pleaded guilty.