More than 700 protesters demonstrating against corporate greed, global warming and social inequality, among other grievances, were arrested Saturday night after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down a lane of traffic for several hours.
Some demonstrators spilled onto the roadway in the late afternoon after being told to stay on the pedestrian pathway, the NYPD said. Most of those arrested face disorderly conduct charges, while others were charged with resisting arrest. The bridge reopened hours later at around 8 p.m. after it had been cleaned, police said.
Erin Larkins, a graduate student at Columbia University who says she and her boyfriend have $130,000 combined in student loan debt, was among the thousands of protesters on the bridge. She said a friend persuaded her to join the march and she's glad she did.
"I don't think we're asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again," Larkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world listen."
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have been camped near the Financial District for two weeks and clashed with police on earlier occasions. Mostly, the protests have been peaceful, and the movement has shown no signs of losing steam. Celebrities like Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon even made recent stops downtown to encourage the group.
On Friday night, more than 1,000 demonstrators in New York took their protest to police headquarters, where they protested the police response to their downtown protest.
Critics have accused officers of being heavy-handed, saying they have roughed up people who did nothing wrong. One officer has been seen on video appearing to walk up and use pepper spray on two groups of people.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said the NYPD is looking into that matter.