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Occupy Wall Street Anniversary Protests Spark Nearly 200 Arrests

By DNAinfo Staff | September 17, 2012 7:44am | Updated on September 17, 2012 9:00pm

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Dozens of protesters were arrested Monday as Occupy Wall Street marked its one-year anniversary with day of marches and civil disobedience in the Financial District.

Determined to show their message of economic justice for "the 99 percent" still has strong support, protesters gathered early Monday morning close to Zuccotti Park — the movement's symbolic heart after it was turned into a makeshift campground housing masses of demonstrators last year.

They were barred from entering by security guards who kept the park locked down. Instead, the movement's supporters gathered by Liberty Plaza. Shortly after 7 a.m. demonstrators marched towards Wall Street with the goal of forming a "people's wall" — they were met with barricades and dozens of police officers.

''We're letting the world know we're still here," said David Ross, 28, a student from Washington Heights.

By 8 p.m. Monday, 181 protesters had been arrested, police said. No injuries, violence or property damage was reported, police said.

The mood was festive and energetic when union workers, clergy, community leaders and students managed to get inside Zuccotti Park around noon. Protesters who had left Zuccotti Park exhausted after camping there for months last year reconnected with each another with hugs and smiles.

Throughout the day groups of demonstrators left Zuccotti periodically to march to financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, where they were greeted by dozens of cops. Seven protesters were arrested after they tried to storm a Bank of America at Liberty Street and Broadway.

Some said they had hoped for a bigger turnout for Occupy's first birthday party.

"I can't help but say I'm a little disappointed that there weren't 100,000 people completely shutting Wall Street down," said Woodstock resident Amanda Montgomery.

But she said she doesn't think the movement will disappear any time soon. "The people who are here and in other cities around the country are devoted," Montgomery said. "They are grandmothers and librarians — the most salt of the earth people who have a conscience and empathy."

Among those arrested was retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, witnesses said. The clergyman has been arrested several times since the movement began a year ago. Four people in wheelchairs were taken into custody, too.

Monday's protests followed two days of trainings and preparations leading up to the anniversary. Fifty demonstrators were arrested Saturday and Sunday. At least 15 people were arraigned and given desk appearance tickets, and one of the protesters had bail set for them, according to the National Lawyers Guild.

The early morning march on the stock exchange was the first in a day of activities planned throughout the city. Occupiers had scheduled a general assembly meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Foley Square, but only a handful of protesters showed up and the gathering happened at Zuccotti instead.

Organizers hoped the anniversary would reunite the movement, which has been dormant despite large protests on May 1.

"It's always been difficult to gauge where it's going to go," said Logan Price, 29, an Occupy spokesman. "I hope this is a shot in the arm. It's been a lot easier to ignore Occupy recently. But it doesn't mean it's not still going on."

The anniversary protest drew hundreds of demonstrators at Zuccotti Park and Battery Park City, but some hoped for more.

"I definitely think we should have five or 10 times more protesters," said Steven Shryock, a retiree in his 60s who joined the movement after seeing the video of a woman being pepper-sprayed by a high-ranking police official.

"People all know that we are screwed up but probably they didn't have the guts to come to the streets. We can't let this movement die."

Richard Lynch, a botanist from Staten Island who was Downtown Monday, said he was happy to be part of Occupy, even if it meant that he only got three hours of sleep.

"It's the one year birthday but I am a little bit tired," Lynch, 50, said, as he filmed police guarding the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street and Broadway. "We have had four days of activities with lots of planning meetings."

He added, "There's up and down but the movement is still full of energy. We have offered a countervoice to the Tea Party and that's really our impact."

Derek Thorpe, 29, a mechanic from Toronto, echoed Lynch's sentiments.

''It's still alive," he said. "I'm sure if the authorities had their way, there wouldn't be any trace of the movement today. But we still have 40 working groups over the five boroughs. Some people are so committed that this is their 24-hour job.''

Mark Bray, an Occupy organizer, said protesters had planned to block all intersections to the stock exchange but were stymied by the heavy police presence.

"Clearly the police have done a pretty good job with closing it off," said Bray, 29.

"Our presence, however, is known and that is one of the most important things."

The fast-moving demonstration created a headache for motorists and pedestrians alike Downtown.Several streets were blocked by activists or completely shut down by the NYPD.

Commuters sympathetic to the Occupy organizers were still annoyed by the inconvenience.

"I really don't know why they're protesting, but I guess they have legitimate reasons," said Eric D., a courier stuck in traffic for more than an hour. "It probably affects me more than it affects a lot of them."

Alexandra Huertas, 36, a nurse, said she had to push her way through crowds to get to work on Broad and Beaver streets. "What is the point of all these cops if they can't even control the traffic?" she asked. "It's ridiculous."

Still, the message of the Occupy movement continues to draw new followers.

Bret Morsc, a Ron Paul supporter from Marion, New York, said he met Occupy friends last month at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

"I was pretty skeptical of the movement earlier but when I met them, my view towards them has improved," Morsc, 30, said.

"I don't agree with all of their viewpoints but I am impressed with their anti-war stance."

Reporters Victoria Bekiempis, Chelsia Rose Marcius and Ben Fractenberg contributed to this story.