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.
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.
The 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. More than two dozen people were arrested.
The street demonstrations also marked two months since the Occupy movement sprang to life in New York on Sept. 17.
They were planned well before police raided a number of encampments over the past few days but were seen by some activists as a way to demonstrate their resolve in the wake of the crackdown.
Thursday’s demonstrations around Wall Street brought taxis and delivery trucks to a halt, but police were largely effective at keeping the protests confined to a few blocks.
Officers allowed Wall Street workers through the barricades, but only after checking their IDs.
Some onlookers applauded the demonstrators from open windows. Others yelled, “Get a job!”
“I don’t understand their logic,” said Adam Lieberman, as he struggled to navigate police barricades on his way to work at JPMorgan Chase. “When you go into business, you go into business to make as much money as you can. And that’s what banks do. They’re trying to make a profit.”
Gene Williams, a bond trader, joked that he was “one of the bad guys” but said he empathized with the demonstrators: “The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor, and it’s getting wider.”