By Mathew Katz, Serena Solomon, Julie Shapiro, Jill Colvin, Nicole Bode, Ben Fractenberg, Carla Zanoni, Tom Liddy and Leslie Albrecht
MANHATTAN — Tensions between cops and Occupy Wall Street protesters boiled over in Zuccotti Park Thursday afternoon following a failed morning attempt to shut down the New York Stock Exchange — part of a "Day of Action" to mark the movement's two-month anniversary that included thousands marching on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The clashes came after more than 100 protesters were arrested as throngs from the anti-greed group surrounded the stock exchange chanting "Wall Street's closed."
A total of 242 protesters had been arrested by Thursday afternoon, including five for assault, police said. Ten were injured in the process, including one with a head wound.
"Some people were intent on being arrested. There's no question about that. It's part of the tactic and strategy," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who added that he was "pleased" with the performance of his officers.
Seven police officers were injured during the mass protests, including five cops who had a liquid, possibly vinegar, tossed in their faces, Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference at Bellevue Hospital, where one of the injured cops were being treated.
Two officers were struck by objects thrown by protesters, including one, Matthew Walters, 24, who received 20 stitches in his left hand when he tried to deflect a star-shaped glass object that had been thrown at him.
Another cop was treated and released for a hand injury. All of the officers were hospitalized but none was seriously hurt.
"We will ensure that everyone has a right to execute their First Amendment Rights," said the mayor, adding that most protesters "have acted responsibly." "But make no mistake about it, if anyone's actions cross the line, and jeopardize the health and safety of the first responders, we will act accordingly."
Cops also confiscated a dozen metal devices that could have been used by protesters to lock themselves to objects, but none were used.
Just before 2 p.m., police closed the exits to Zuccotti Park, which was jammed with protesters, sparking a fight for control of the barricades surrounding the plaza — the movement's lower Manhattan base until the space was cleared Tuesday morning in a pre-dawn raid.
Shortly before that, 30 or 40 cops surged into the park, but protesters surrounded the officers and started yelling. Police then pushed some protesters to the ground and hit others with batons.
About 50 cops then stormed into the park, moving demonstrators from one side to the other while protesters pushed back. Cops stood in a circle in the center of the park while the group chanted, "This is a non-violent protest."
In the melee, a man was seen laying on the ground bleeding from the head. Police said that the man, Brandon Watts, 20, tossed batteries and pieces of a plastic pen at police officers. He also allegedly stole a deputy inspector's hat.
Watts then tried to shove metal barricades at the officers, who tackled him to the ground as he kicked at them, police said. The suspect, who hit his head on the ground, was treated and Bellevue Hospital and released. He was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest and grand larceny, police said.
The scuffle came just hours before a series of other actions including small protests on the subway in the afternoon and students rallying in Union Square and at Hunter College and a planned march on the Brooklyn Bridge, where more than 700 protesters were arrested in October.
In Foley Square, ahead of the march to the bridge, thousands of protesters were joined by members of the Service Employees International Union and some 200 Verizon workers chanting "we are the 99 percent" and "this is what a police state looks like." Also among the throng were rappers Fab 5 Freddy and KRS ONE.
As the group streamed through Lower Manhattan, funneled by police barricade, several protesters who had already gathered at the foot of the bridge were arrested, including City Councilman Jumaane Williams, according to his Twitter account. According to a witness, about 100 demonstrators wearing white shirts sat down and linked arms before being taken into custody.
As protesters marched across the bridge chanting "Whose bridge? Our bridge?" cars honked their horns in support. Cheers erupted as a giant "99%" symbol was projected onto the Verizon building, near the base of the bridge.
Earlier in the day, protesters said they thought their actions had delayed the stock exchange's opening bell, but an NYSE spokesman said trading started on time at 9:30 a.m. "For us, it's business as usual," said NYSE spokesman Ray Pellechia.
But at Zuccotti Park demonstrators rang cow bells and climbed trees to celebrate their attempt to shut down the global trading hub.
"I think it was a success," said 26-year-old Karen Jenson, a Wyoming resident who's been participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests for the past five weeks. "I was not overwhelmed with our success, but I felt like we were humble about it."
Outside the stock exchange, some of the thousands of protesters that amassed formed a human chain to block workers from heading toward the financial center, sparking a clash with police. During the scuffle cops were seen repeatedly hitting a protester with a nightstick near Broad and Beaver streets.
A protester in a wheelchair joyfully recounted how cops arrested her near William Street as demonstrators linked arms and refused police orders to disperse.
"They asked me if I really wanted to be arrested," said 63-year-old Nadina LaStina, who uses a wheelchair because of a childhood bout with polio. "I said, that's why I'm here, so they arrested me."
But police weren't able to load LaStina and her wheelchair into a paddy wagon to central booking with other arrested protesters. Instead took her mugshot in the street and handed her a summons for disorderly conduct on the spot.
"It was extremely important to me as a disabled person," said LaStina of her arrest. "I am very angry. I want our democracy back."
Many angry commuters were caught up in the fracas as they tried to make their way to work.
"These a--holes need to get a job and stop keeping us from ours," said Jenn Bobics, 42, who works at an investment firm. "I can't get to work now, or at least I don't know how to."
A 23-year-old security guard on her way to work from Queens called the protest "ridiculous."
"I have to get to work," said Shareema Williams.
Police had barricaded Wall Street at Broadway only allowing those with employee IDs to pass. They also closed Hanover and Pine streets, as well as Thames Street from Nassau Street to Broadway, and Nassau Street from just south of Cedar to Wall Street.
Cops in riot gear tried to keep protesters on the sidewalk, but their swelling numbers caused many of them to spill into the street. At least eight police officers were stationed in front of Wall Street's famous bronze bull sculpture.
Marchers heckled Wall Street workers as they showed up for work, shouting, "Get your corporate ID out, this is a police state" and "God Bless America."
Tylee Robinson, a 23-year-old actor, tried to sneak past a police barricade wearing a suit and tie and carrying a fake corporate ID. "I'm prepared to get arrested, I'm prepared to get beaten," he said.
But he drew the line at being the first to jump barricades. "I would follow someone else jumping over the barricade, but I wouldn't lead it," he said.
Some protesters said it was Tuesday's police raid at Zuccotti Park that inspired them to join the day's events.
Among them was Alison Bell, a 54-year-old lawyer from Stowe, Vt., who was with her 20-year-old son, Cameron, in Zuccotti Park.
"I participated in these sorts of things at [my son's] age. It makes me hopeful for the first time in a long time," Bell said.
"We want a big show of support from people who haven't been here before like me, and people who've been here from the beginning."