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Occupy Wall Street arrests increase. Have mayors reached their tipping point?

Encampment sweeps and arrests are increasing as mayors from Oakland to Atlanta reach a turning point in their negotiations with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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The Occupy protests have laid down a mish-mash of complaints about government bailouts, corporate power, and income and wage inequalities that they claim have become inherent in the US economic and political system, violating the social contract to favor the rich.

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Critics of the movement have said protesters would do better to vent their frustrations at Washington, which they say has been complicit with big business to create a system that squelches opportunity.

But even as the Occupy movement has sparked debate and even rejiggered political messages heading into the 2012 election, the practical realities of a long-term occupation of downtown parks is pushing the situation in many places to a head, as concern about sanitation and public safety grows.

Hundreds of arrests have already taken place, most of them coming in September when protesters blocked the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Police cleared smaller camps in San Francisco, San Diego, and Cincinnati this weekend. Chicago police arrested 130 people as they cleared Grant Park on Sunday, though protesters say they would not be deterred. "We're not going anywhere," Occupy spokesman Joshua Kaunert told the Associated Press.

The police action in Oakland began before 5 a.m. on Tuesday, as hundreds of officers in riot gear arrived at two occupied parks and shut down surrounding streets.

As protesters yelled "Cops, go home," several people upended trash cans and dumpsters and, briefly, threw bottles at the police. After dozens of arrests, one Oakland camp was essentially destroyed as clean up crews moved in. "The place is a complete mess with a couch on its side and carpet and tents strewn everywhere," write Scott Johnson and Kristin Bender in the Oakland Tribune.

Such scenes are likely to become more commonplace as mayors and police chiefs attempt to force protesters to go home while avoiding all-out violence.

"I think what we will see are a variety of different approaches in different cities to find a way to sustain the energy without confrontation," says Professor Reed of Washington University. "It's a difficult situation for both sides."

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