Scores of Occupy Wall Street protesters have been arrested across the US after they attempted to mark two months since the movement against alleged corporate greed began.
In New York City police arrested at least 177 protesters on Thursday after they refused to end a blockade of a street intersection in the city’s financial district. Some protesters, who resisted orders to leave, scuffled with the officers.
The rally, which began with a co-ordinated effort to shut down the stock exchange, grew into several thousand strong later in the day as the standard workday ended and unions joined a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, where last month more than 700 people were arrested.
Union organisers obtained a permit from the city, and speakers were allowed to use a sound system, a rarity in the city’s protests that marked its two months.
Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from New York City, said it was a pivotal day for the movement.
“A lot of protesters say it has been a victorious day, and obviously it’s culminating with at least ten thousand protesters gathering in foley park, and now we are hearing at least a thousand are crossing the Brooklyn bridge.”
Protesters say they are upset that billions of dollars in bailouts given to banks during the recession allowed a return to huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and a struggling economy.
“The mood of the crowd was unbelievable, people from all walks of life. It is totally amazing” Sergeant Shamar Thomas, a veteran of the Iraq war and one of the protesters, told Al Jazeera.
Many protesters complained of police brutality, pointing to one image of a man whose face was bloodied during his arrest and another of a woman who was dragged across the sidewalk by an officer, Reuters news agency reported.
“They tried to use a lot different tactics against us. They kept putting blockades within the movement to stop people from moving freely. They are almost treating us like cattle instead of human beings,” Thomas said.
“Somebody was hit in the head with a baton. It is not that police doesn’t have the right to arrest. It is the excessive force that they use- if you have a man on the ground, why are you hitting him in the head with a baton.”
On Wednesday, a New York deputy mayor said officials were bracing for tens of thousands of people at various locations who could clog subways and bridges.
The protesters’ encampment in Zuccotti Park, considered the epicentre of the global Occupy movement, was cleared out by police on Tuesday, leaving the movement in the nation’s largest city without a permanent home.
While protesters have been allowed to return to the site, they are banned from establishing living quarters in the park.
Protesters set up camp in Zuccotti Park on September 17 as a focus for dissent against a financial system they argue mostly benefits corporations and the wealthy.
The movement has sparked similar protests against economic inequality both nationally and internationally.
In Los Angeles, hundreds of demonstrators blocked a street in the city centre, snarling traffic on surrounding freeways, before police moved in and arrested 23 people.
In Dallas, about 20 people were arrested when police shut down their six-week-old camp near City Hall.
Dozens more demonstrators were held by police in Las Vegas, Nevada and St Louis, Missouri, while smaller protests were held in Denver, Colorado, and Washington DC.