Hundreds of Occupy demonstrators marched through New York's financial district Thursday in an attempt to block traders from reaching the New York Stock Exchange, promising a national day of action with mass gatherings in other cities. The action came two days after authorities cleared their encampment that sparked the global protest movement against economic inequality and greed.
Frustrations seemed to spill over in the park at the center of the protest as hundreds of people shoved back the metal police barricades that have long surrounded the area. A live television shot from above showed waves of police and protesters briefly pushing back and forth before the barricades appeared to be settled at the edge of the park once more.
"All day, all week, shut down Wall Street!" the crowd chanted, clogging the streets as they neared the stock exchange.
Police said about 50 or 60 people were arrested, including several who sat on the ground one block from Wall Street and refusing to move.
Some of the police hit protesters as they resisted arrest. Most of the marchers retreated.
The protest did not delay the opening of the New York Stock Exchange or disrupt business, said Rich Adamonis, a spokesman for the exchange.
In Los Angeles, about 500 sympathizers of the Occupy Wall Street protest marched in the downtown financial district, chanting "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out." Police took two protesters into custody. The national day of action had been planned before the city and park owners cracked down on the two-month-old encampment in Zuccotti Park, clearing out tents, tarps and sleeping bags. Similar camps have sprung up across the U.S. but face increasing pressure from local authorities, who point to health and safety concerns.
"This is a critical moment for the movement given what happened the other night," said Paul Knick, 44. "It seems like there's a concerted effort to stop the movement, and I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen."
The protest remained peaceful, and the demonstrators and police were still allowing workers to get to their offices.
Passer-by Gene Williams, a 57-year-old bond trader, joked that he was "one of the bad guys" but said he empathized with the demonstrators.
"They have a point in a lot of ways," he said. "The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it's getting wider."
A past attempt to march across the bridge drew the first significant international attention to the Occupy movement when more than 700 people were arrested.
The police department said it would have scores of officers ready to handle protesters in the subways.
"The protesters are calling for a massive event aimed at disrupting major parts of the city," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said. "We will be prepared for that." The confrontations followed early-morning arrests in Dallas, where police evicted dozens of protesters from their campsite near City Hall citing public safety and hygiene issues.
They arrested 18 protesters who refused to leave. Two protesters were arrested and about 20 tents removed at an encampment on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.