By Marina Lopes and Tom Liddy
LOWER MANHATTAN — Cops arrested hundreds of protesters from the Occupy Wall Street group Saturday afternoon after they marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge — in a standoff that snarled traffic for hours and drew a massive police response.
Police said that more than 700 members of the group were collared during the standoff with cops, which began around 3 p.m. Most were charged with disorderly conduct, issued summonses and released.
Paul Browne, the NYPD's chief spokesman, said in a statement that: "multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the pedestrian walkway, and that if they took the roadway, they would be arrested.
"Some complied and took the walkway without being arrested. Others proceeded on the Brooklyn-bound vehicular roadway and were arrested."
Several of the arrests could be seen on a live video stream from the group and many of those who were detained were lined up on either side of the bridge's Brooklyn-bound roadway.
A spokesman for the group, Patrick Bruner, also told DNAinfo.com that "hundreds" had been arrested as of just before 8 p.m.
Earlier in the afternoon, the protesters were corralled on the bridge's roadway in orange nets, many sitting on the roadway while others watched from the pedestrian path above.
Several said that police allowed them onto the roadway, only to trap them from behind.
"As we were walking we noticed police officers were behind us. It was really intense," said Monica Bethelwood, 24, who was released after hours of being held on the bridge.
"People were saying let us go. It was a very peaceful movement. We started noticing we were being trapped in there. A sort of panic set in."
Others said that protesters climbed down onto the roadway from the pedestrian walkway.
Pamela Benepe, 61, one of the first people released, said that she wanted to leave once she made it onto the bridge, but couldn't move.
“I asked a police officer to let me out. He told me to walk but I couldn’t move," she said. "They started arresting the people in the front row. It was very nerve-wracking for an old woman like me."
Protesters who were released said that women were being freed in groups of 10 while the men had to stay behind.
The releases capped a chaotic scene that engulfed the bridge for much of the afternoon.
At one point the protesters chanted "Let us go! Let us go!" and "We're not the criminals!"
They also shouted to the cops: "We're fighting for your pensions. You belong with us."
And they screamed: "Whose bridge? Our bridge" and "Whose police? Our police."
At least one person was pictured dangling from the bridge's web of support cables.
Many taped the incident from the walkway above and snippets of the protest were caught on a the group's live feed.
Police were also shooting video of the arrests and several could be seen holding camcorders while each arrest was carried out.
While the protesters were on the bridge, Brooklyn-bound traffic was suspended. Manhattan-bound traffic was moving, but with delays.
The bridge was completely reopened at 8:05 p.m., police said.
During the protest, passersby and supporters waved to and cheered on the marchers. At least one blushing bride was pictured passing by the group on the pedestrian walkway.
As protesters made their way off the bridge, into Lower Manhattan, they were greeted with applause.
Later in the day, a group of the protesters marched on police headquarters before clearing out of the area.
On Sept. 24, dozens of protesters from the group, which first set itself up in Zuccotti Park, near the World Trade Center on Sept. 17, were arrested after they marched to Union Square.
Video emerged from that day allegedly showing a high-ranking police officer, identified by sources as Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, pepper spraying a group of women. The incident is under investigation.