New York police cleared Zuccotti Park where the Occupy Wall Street movement was born six months ago and made several arrests after hundreds of protesters returned in an anniversary observance and defiantly resisted calls to clear out.
Some of Occupy protesters locked arms and sat down in the middle of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street after police announced on a bullhorn at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday that the park was closed. Officers then poured into the park, forcing most of the crowd out and surrounding a small group that stayed behind. Police formed a human ring around the park to keep protesters out.
Several people were arrested, police said. An unused public transit bus was brought in to cart away about a dozen protesters in plastic handcuffs. One female under arrest had difficulty breathing and was taken away in an ambulance to be treated.
For hours, the demonstrators had been chanting and holding impromptu meetings in the park to celebrate the anniversary of the movement that has brought attention to economic inequality, as police mainly kept their distance.
But New York Police Det. Brian Sessa said the tipping point came 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.
Brian Sessa said Brookfield Properties, the park owner, sent in security to advise the protesters to stop pitching tents and to leave the park. The protesters, in turn, became agitated with them. The company then asked the police to help them clear out the park, the detective said.
“Most of the people, they left the park,” Brian Sessa said.
“People who refused to leave and were staying were arrested.”
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 Park drew hundreds of people.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who had given a speech at a nearby university, also made an appearance at the park, milling around with protesters.
With the barricades that once blocked them from Wall Street now removed, the protesters streamed down the sidewalk and covered the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial. There, steps from the New York Stock Exchange and standing at the feet of a statue of George Washington, they danced and chanted, “We are unstoppable.”
Police say arrests were made, but they didn’t have a full count yet.
Protesters have questioned whether the group can regain its momentum. This month, the finance accounting group in New York City reported that just about $119,000 remained in Occupy’s bank account – the equivalent of about two weeks’ worth of expenses.