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Over 700 arrested in New York as protest movement grows across the country

by Damon Eris, published

The ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan's finanical district has entered its third week.  Well over 700 demonstrators were arrested on Saturday as they sought to march over the Brooklyn Bridge in an act of civil disobedience.  Similar protests are now being planned in nearly a hundred cities and towns across the country, including sixteen in California. 

The Occupy Wall Street protest, which began in New York City's financial district on September 17th, is still ongoing.  Protesters have occupied a park in the heart of the financial district for the last three weeks.  Hundreds camp in the park by night.  Their numbers swell into the thousands during the day.  Protesters are demonstrating against the corrupting influence of money in politcs, lack of adequate representation by the two-party system, and social inequality, among a variety of other issues. 

On Saturday, thousands gathered at the protest's encampment for a planned march over the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge.  However, after the march arrived at the bridge, a large number of protesters broke off from the planned route and took to the street below the walkway on the Brooklyn-bound side of the bridge. 

Police informed those at the front of the breakaway group that they would be arrested if they continued, but they did not stop the march from progressing onto the bridge.  Others in the middle and back of the march, who did not hear the initial warnings, appear to have believed that police were escorting the march across the bridge. 

A police line advancing from the opposite end of the bridge stopped the marchers about a third of the way across.  Another police line followed them from behind, kettling the protesters on the bridge.  A few hundred, many of whom likely did not understand the implications of taking to the street, were allowed to return to Manhattan.  The rest were detained and arrested one by one.  Police reported over 700 arrests early Sunday morning.  The Brooklyn-bound lane of the bridge was shut down for hours, snarling traffic in lower Manhattan.  On Sunday afternoon, thousands of protesters could once again be found at the protest's encampment.

Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17th, similar demonstrations have begun to spring up across the country.   In Boston, dozens were arrested at the Bank of America building on Saturday as part of an ongoing demonstration near the Federal Reserve Bank organized by Occupy Boston.  Protesters have been demonstrating outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for over a week. 

In San Francisco, OccupySF protesters have been camped out for three weeks in solidarity with their counterparts in New York.  Hundreds marched down Market Street last Thursday.  Six were arrested after refusing to leave a branch of Chase Bank where they had planned to sleep for the night.  Occupy Los Angeles kicked off on Saturday, with a march to City Hall by a crowd of over a thousand people.  Protests are being planned for the coming weeks in dozens of cities and towns across the country, including Washington D.C., where an occupation-style demonstration is planned to begin this Thursday.

Organizers of the growing but loosely connected nationwide network of protest groups say they intend to continue their demonstrations indefinitely. See Occupy Together, which is functioning as an umbrella site for the burgeoning movement, for more information.