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New Yorkers spearhead national day of Occupy Wall Street protests

November 17, 2011 |  1:31 pm

Demonstrators in New York marched through Manhattan’s streets Thursday as they spearheaded a national day of protest commemorating the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Starting from a very tense Zuccotti Park, the encampment dismantled earlier this week in a police raid, hundreds marched uptown to Union Square, the famed meeting ground for protests going back well more than a century. The march was calm and a far cry from the day’s earlier activities, which included protests at the New York Stock Exchange and the arrest of about 75 people.

The Occupy movement began Sept. 17 when demonstrators set up their camp after a protest against corporate greed by Wall Street institutions. So it seemed fitting that New York had the largest number of arrests, even with demonstrations taking place across the nation -- including in Los Angeles and in Portland, Ore. Nationally, the arrest toll was more than 3,000 in the weeks of protests.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests around the nation

The groups haven't developed a single platform but all generally blame the wealthiest 1% of the nation for spurning the remaining 99%. The groups protest what they call greed by banks, poor credit, rising debt and the lack of jobs.

“All day, all week, occupy Wall Street,” was the familiar chant on Thursday as protesters walked in New York. Police seemed to be hanging back, just watching as the group moved up Broadway.

“Maybe, just maybe, we're witnessing the first real step toward revolution,” said Dave Silver, a World War II veteran, to a reporter. He was pushing a walker up Broadway as marchers streamed toward Union Square amid a cold drizzle.

Silver described himself as a Marxist and said there was just one solution to the economic ills that Occupy Wall Street is protesting. “We have to get rid of capitalism,” he said, calling for a massive strike “to stop the machine from functioning.”

At Union Square, things were generally calm. Signs proclaimed "Students and workers take the city back" and "End tuition hikes now!"

It was a far cry from earlier in the day, when hundreds of helmeted police moved around Zuccotti Park. Two witnesses standing across the street, about 25 feet away, said they saw police inside the park suddenly apprehend a man standing next to a bicycle in what one said was an unprovoked attacked.

“The police are nervous,” said Felix Lasheras, a witness.

Relations between protesters and police have been tense even before this week’s raid when authorities shut down the encampment. Protesters are allowed to stay in the park but have been banned by the courts from using tents, generators and other camping equipment.

Occupy Wall Street's Bill Dobbs said the future was wide open for the movement despite claims by some that the loss of the 24-hour camp there would kill it.

“It is a setback because it was a political base, a visual focal point and an energy supermarket,” Dobbs said in the park just before the march stepped off. “People assembling can get power and that is exactly what the mayor does not like.”

Today's actions across the nation showed that the movement “is touching very deep nerves,” Dobbs said.

“We're rethinking ... regrouping and always strategizing about economic justice,” he said.


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-- Tina Susman in New York and Michael Muskal in Los Angeles