Several hundred Occupy Wall Street activists marched through Manhattan on Saturday to protest against what they say is police repression as they try to revive their movement.
Several demonstrators were arrested along the route of the march in scuffles with New York police, who deployed in large numbers to keep activists on sidewalks.
“There were a few arrests, but we don’t have a final number yet,” an NYPD spokeswoman said.
Skirmishes between police and Occupy protesters, who say they represent America’s “99 percent” against a ruling “one percent,” have become near daily occurrences in New York since the spring weather turned warm in recent days.
After surging to international prominence six months ago with its occupation of a plaza near Wall Street, the loosely led organization largely dropped out of the news over the winter. But efforts are building to get Occupy Wall Street back on the move.
“I’m so glad so many of the 99 percent are here today,” one organizer, Aaron, who refused to give his last name, told a crowd of about 200 gathered at Union Square following the march.
“They said we were over, they said we were hibernating, they said we were asleep. Do we look asleep?”
A heavy police presence was deployed at Union Square, including several officers on horseback and a helicopter hovering above.
The reason for Saturday’s protest was alleged police violence during the breakup a week ago of a larger rally at Zuccotti Park near Wall Street on the six month anniversary of Occupy’s founding. Protesters called on New York police commissioner Ray Kelly to resign.
After being forcibly evicted from Zuccotti Park, the location the movement was born in last year, it appears that some protesters are targeting bustling Union Square as a potential camp. At night, police have started to take the unusual move of restricting access to the square in order to prevent Occupy activists from settling in.
Katherine Bromberg, an observer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that she’d witnessed “a significant uptick” of rough tactics. “If they don’t arrest them, they harass them.”
Occupy began as a mix of idealistic college students, out of work older people, and many others concerned about a growing gap between the very rich and the increasingly squeezed middle class in the United States. Anarchists and others far from the mainstream, however, have changed the mix at many rallies.
Arckii Kim, a fashionable 29-year-old who works in marketing, said she came Saturday to show that regular working people still believed in Occupy’s cause.
“I work full time nine to six and pay all my taxes,” she said. “It’s not all hippies.”
Kim, who comes from South Korea, said she was angry at police pressure on activists trying to gather peacefully. “I don’t think of this as a democratic country. This is not what I expected about America.”
Police say they let the protesters rally and march but will not allow them to take over parks or block traffic.
Another New York rally was due to be held Saturday near the United Nations building and another in Brooklyn on Sunday.