NEW YORK — More than 700 anti-Wall Street activists were arrested in New York amid chaotic scenes on Brooklyn Bridge after the protest movement's march against "corporate greed" was broken up by police.
The activists, many of whom have been camped out in Manhattan for two weeks, were detained during their latest and biggest demonstration yet against government-backed banking bail-outs and corporate influence in U.S. politics.
As approximately 1,500 protesters walked about a third of the way across the bridge, the police corralled hundreds of them with orange netting.
The police then began slowly arresting the protesters, according to AlterNet’s Kristen Gwynne.
“They’re arresting us one by one,” she said. “I just asked a cop and they said they’re going to arrest all of us. There are hundreds of people who don’t have room to sit down. We’re just clammed in.”
The New York Police Department said it only arrested protesters who had spilled out onto the roadway and impeded vehicle traffic.
“Protesters are asking able-bodied male people to go up to the cops and accept their arrest, to speed along the process,” Gwynne added. “Boyfriends and girlfriends are kissing each other goodbye as the guys go off to get arrested.”
Protesters claimed that New York police officers had purposefully led them onto the bridge roadway so that they could arrest them en masse.
The "Occupy Wall Street" movement said it had staked its ground in downtown Manhattan "as a symbolic gesture of our discontent with the current economic and political climate."
Some of the demonstrators carried hand-drawn placards that read "End the Fed" and "Pepper spray Goldman Sachs" in what police described as a peaceful protest that nevertheless saw hundreds detained for public order offenses.
"More than 700 people were arrested. Most of them for disorderly conduct," a New York Police Department spokesman told AFP.
The anti-Wall Street activists began their campaign by occupying Zuccotti Park, in the heart of Manhattan's financial district, on September 17 and have since held protests outside the New York Stock Exchange and NYPD headquarters.
Some of those arrested at the bridge on Saturday were released after a few hours, while others would likely be held for a day or could receive a court summons, police said.
"We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent," Occupy Wall Street, which describes itself as a resistance movement inspired by the Arab Spring, said in a statement.
Saturday's protest forced authorities to shut down the bridge for several hours as police placed protestors in handcuffs while others chanted slogans.
Another NYPD spokesman said there were "several hundred protestors who decided to walk on the roadway and who blocked traffic. Some heeded the warnings, some left, and arrests were made."
Police shut down the Brooklyn Bridge "for a couple of hours" in the late afternoon, the NYPD said, adding that many protestors had remained on the bridge's pedestrian walkway without incident.
Protestors have added police brutality to their list of grievances after a senior officer used pepper spray against four demonstrators who had already been shut inside a police pen a week ago.
Meanwhile in Boston on Saturday, 24 protestors were arrested and charged with trespassing as a vast crowd marched outside Bank of America offices.
Right to the City, the coalition of advocacy groups that organized the demonstration, said the event was held to protest corporate greed and to stop bank foreclosures.
According to organizers, around 3,000 people marched outside the bank. Police did not provide a crowd estimate.
With additional reporting by Raw Story