About 700 protesters demonstrating against corporate greed, global warming and social inequality, among other grievances, were arrested Saturday night in New York after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down a lane of traffic for several hours.
Some demonstrators spilled onto the roadway in the late afternoon after being told to stay on the pedestrian pathway, police said. Most of those arrested face disorderly conduct charges, while others were charged with resisting arrest. The bridge reopened around 8 p.m. after it had been cleared, police said.
Erin Larkins, a graduate student at Columbia University who says she and her boyfriend have $130,000 combined in student loan debt, was among the thousands of protesters on the bridge. She said a friend persuaded her to join the march and she's glad she did.
"I don't think we're asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again," Larkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world listen."
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have been camped near the financial district for two weeks and clashed with police on earlier occasions. Mostly, the protests have been peaceful, and the movement has shown no signs of losing steam. Celebrities including filmmaker Michael Moore and actress Susan Sarandon even made recent stops downtown to encourage the group.
Elsewhere in the U.S., protesters assembled in Albuquerque, N.M., Boston and Los Angeles to express their solidarity with the movement taking place in New York.
On Friday night, more than 1,000 demonstrators in New York took their protest to police headquarters, decrying the police response to their downtown protest.
The crowd may have swelled because of a false rumour that the band Radiohead would appear. Since the protest began two weeks ago, turnout has varied, but the numbers have reached as high as about 1,500 previously.
Critics have accused officers of being heavy-handed, saying they have roughed up people who did nothing wrong. The NYPD has disputed that claim.