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Police confront Wall Street protest march
At least 28 people arrested after pepper spray and batons used against group that reportedly rushed barricades.
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2011 05:33

New York City's weeks-long 'Occupy Wall Street' encampment protest has gone quiet in the night after a large march through the United States' financial capital in which police violently confronted a crowd of demonstrators and journalists who had converged near police barricades.

Police arrested at least 28 people after they used pepper spray and batons to confront the crowd on Wednesday night, charging one person with assault after a police officer was knocked from his scooter, according to a police spokesperson.

Others who were arrested had tried to break through the barricade, the spokesperson said.

The march on Wall Street was part of a growing protest movement in financial centres around the country where demonstrators are voicing anger over wealth inequality and mishandling of the economic crisis.

A crowd of roughly 100 to 200 people had gathered at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street when the violence erupted. Al Jazeera's Cath Turner, reporting from nearby, said a breakaway group of protesters had asked those willing to be arrested to come forward, link arms and breach the metal barricades.

In-depth coverage of the global movement
Video of the clash shows a group of police officers facing chanting and drumming demonstrators on multiple sides. At least one officer appears to shoot pepper spray into the air while another swings his baton at members of the crowd.

Other officers appear to push metal fence barricades into place, while one can be seen apparently using his baton to shove back the videographer for the advocacy group We Are Change, who filmed the images of the violence (link contains strong language).

A local news affiliate of Fox television reported that two of its journalists also had been injured in the clash. Photographer Roy Isen was hit in the eyes by mace and reporter Dick Brennan was hit by an officer's baton, the station reported.

The station said that the clash broke out when a crowd "surged past barriers" and police officers moved in to contain them.

Unions add muscle

Around 5,000 demonstrators had converged on New York's financial district earlier in the day, their ranks swelled by nurses, transit workers and other union members who had joined the protest over economic inequality and the power of US financial institutions, which began on September 17.

Among those who joined were members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union and National Nurses United.

The group marched from Foley Square in lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, the staging area and campground for the protests. The day's events were reportedly peaceful until the violence at the barricade.

"We're really excited that labour is part of the protest,'' said Sara Niccoli, a spokeswoman for the Labour-Religion Coalition, an Albany, New York-based organisation that aims to "do justice" for workers.

Our correspondent said protest organisers are "ecstatic that more groups are starting to take hold" of the movement.

Some transport union officials are upset that New York police commandeered public buses on Saturday in order to transport arrested Wall Street protesters.

Drivers were ordered to take some of the 700 people who had been arrested during a protest that was stopped when it reached the Brooklyn Bridge and spilled onto the roadway.

"We don't believe that our members should be commandeered by an arm of law enforcement to drive buses in which people are being transported who were arrested," Alan Saley, a spokesperson for New York's Transportation Workers United (TWU) Local 100 union, told Al Jazeera.

"We feel that is outside their job responsibilities and a violation of their constitutional right," he said.

The union represents around 38,000 people, including around 9,000 city bus drivers, according to the magazine.

Lawyers with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund have filed a class action lawsuit against the city alleging that the arrests on the bridge were "premeditated, planned, scripted, and calculated" and a violation of the marchers' constitutional rights.

Other arrests, warnings

Also on Wednesday, 25 people among a crowd of about 200 who were part of the 'Occupy Seattle' protest in the US state of Washington were arrested and police removed demonstrators' tents and other belongings.

The Seattle police-protester confrontation occurred in the early afternoon, and more than 100 demonstrators remained at the site late in the day.

In San Francisco, California, 'Occupy SF' protesters were given a notice from the police department, which stated: "This encampment is a violation of the law.

"Accordingly, you are being ordered to take down this structure. Refusal to comply and/or obstruction of our efforts to remove the structure may result in your arrest"

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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