NBC New York
Protesters spent Thursday morning criss-crossing lower Manhattan in their Day of Action, and some seemed intent on ending up in jail. Melissa Russo reports after spending the day among the ranks.
Thousands of demonstrators marched on Wall Street and throughout downtown Manhattan as part of a day of action Thursday that saw a few bursts of violence and disputes with police, marking the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
By the evening, protesters demanding economic equality marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge, many of them carrying handheld LED lights, in what was possibly the movement's largest mobilization since it began on Sept. 17. The crowd included many labor unions marching in solidarity.
So many people tried to go over the bridge Thursday night that many were turned away. Police arrested 64 protesters at the bridge for blocking traffic, including Brooklyn city councilman Jumaane Williams.
But the vast majority was able to make it to the Brooklyn side.
As they marched along the bridge in the dark, there were light projections of "99%" beamed onto nearby skyscrapers, including the Verizon building along the East River.
"I think we sent a message to the people who said this movement would die out, that this movement had no focus," said Eric Guy, a demonstrator.
At least 300 people were arrested and several people were injured throughout the day. A video was posted online showing a protester being dragged by police, and at least four police officers were injured when some type of liquid, believed to be vinegar, was thrown in their faces at Broadway and Wall Street. Later, an officer was cut, needing 20 stitches, by a protester wielding an object with glass on it, and another officer was hit in the eye with liquids.
At Union Square in the afternoon, protesters faced off with police at various points, who sought to funnel them and control their path with barricades. Then, at Foley Square, police on scooters tried to force crowd onto sidewalks, and mounted police were brought in to control the masses.
Despite the clashes, Mayor Bloomberg said at a 4 p.m. briefing that the day of action, thus far, had had "minimal disruptions" on the city and said most protesters had "acted responsibly."
As the Day of Action wound down, protesters already had their sights on another occupation: one woman told NBC New York the Occupy factions across the country were coordinating a plan to "occupy" foreclosed homes in the next few weeks, likely the first two weeks of December.
Details were still being worked out, according to the protester, Kaiti Lattimer. It wasn't clear whether they planned to actually go inside the empty homes, since they could face significantly more damaging charges.
The protesters began marching just before 8 a.m., and were soon met by police as they neared Wall Street. Some groups splintered off, chanting "Whose streets? Our streets," while others sat down in the roadway near Nassau and Beaver streets, blocking traffic and chanting, "All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!"
"We're here to make some noise and remind the 1 percent why we're here," Occupy Wall Street spokeswoman Senia Barragan said.
Passerby Gene Williams, a 57-year-old bond trader, joked that he was "one of the bad guys'' but that he empathized with the demonstrators.
"They have a point in a lot of ways,'' he said. "The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it's getting wider.''
Protesters then fanned out across the city during the afternoon and headed to select subway stations to talk to commuters about their movement. At 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, protesters didn't block people from boarding, but gathered outside stations to get their message across.
"This is where the people are," said protester Josh Douglas. "People need to hear this message over and over and over again."
"I can't deal with these people," grumbled one Upper West Sider who opted for the M20 bus instead of the C train.
The day of action had been planned before the city and park owners cracked down on the encampment in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning. Tents, tarps and sleeping bags were cleared out and the granite plaza was cleaned for the first time since the group arrived more than two months ago.
There were 220 people arrested during the cleanup and the daylong protests that followed, including several journalists who were later released. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez also was arrested and said he was roughed up by police.
The city said the situation at the park had become untenable. Residents in Lower Manhattan had complained frequently about protesters making noise and leaving human waste in the street, and city officials had said the park, littered with tents, tarps and other items, had become a fire hazard.