Dozens of police officers cleared Zuccotti Park where the Occupy movement was born six months ago and arrested several people after hundreds of protesters returned in an anniversary observance and defiantly resisted calls to clear out, reports The Huff Post.
Hundreds of people had gathered in the financial district to observe the founding of Occupy Wall Street six months ago.
According to The New York Times, protesters had earlier embarked upon a winding march, after which police officers made initial arrests of about a dozen people near the park.
The Wall Street protesters targeted U.S. financial policies they blamed for the yawning income gap between rich and poor in the country, between 1 percent and the 99 percent, as they called it.
After 11:30 p.m., some protesters began to set up tents not far from the center of the park and police began to move in.
New York Police Det. Brian Sessa said the police had to intervene when the protesters started breaking the park rules.
“They set up tents. They had sleeping bags,” he said. Electrical boxes also were tampered with and there was evidence of graffiti.
After police officers massed on Broadway, a commander announced that the park was closed. The protesters shouted back that the park was obliged through an agreement with the city to remain open. Then the commander announced that anyone who remained inside would be arrested and charged with trespassing.
When about 100 officers entered the park, dozens of protesters where sitting on the ground and refused to leave it. The protesters were carried out in plastic handcuffs and put in police buses and vans.
One of the members of Occupy’s direct action working group, Sandra Nurse, said that police treated demonstrators roughly and made arbitrary arrests. She said the police assertion that demonstrators had broken park rules by putting up tents or getting out sleeping bags were false.
“I didn’t see any sleeping bags. There was a banner hung between two trees and a tarp thrown over it … It wasn’t a tent. It was an erect thing, if that’s what you want to call it,” she said.
After clearing the park, police officers and private security guards started placing a ring of metal barricades on the park’s perimeter. Those who had been arrested were placed inside a city bus.
By 12:20 a.m., police officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters and forced them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Earlier in the day, with the city’s attention focused on the huge St. Patrick’s Day parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally at Zuccotti drew hundreds of people, including celebrities.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who had given a speech at a nearby university, made an appearance at Zuccotti park.
On Saturday night he strode through the park before the police incursion.
“I think it’s great that this movement continues to grow,” Moore said. “I think the goals are clear. People are concerned that they have no control over their own democracy. They have no control over their own lives.”
“This is the beginning. This park is sacred ground for millions across the country.”
During the day several people also got under arrest.
After 2 p.m., police officers started telling a large group of protesters that they could not stand on the sidewalk on a stretch of Liberty Street. Police pushed the crowd until more than 100 protesters on the sidewalk were pressed against a wall that borders the park.
After that the officers began arresting people, taking into custody at least half a dozen. Officers surged into the crowd, dragging protesters toward the street, as people yelled objections.
Police admitted arrests were made, but they didn’t have a full count yet.