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Occupy Arrests at West Street
one-year anniversary began with early morning protests at New York's financial centre, but the demonstrations were marred by numerous arrests as activists marched around lower Manhattan.
On 17 September 2011 hundreds had answered a call from Adbusters, the Canadian activist magazine, sparking demonstrations against failing financial systems and the influence of money in politics that spread around the globe. Thousands of protesters took to streets and encampments before high-profile police crackdowns in New York and Oakland signalled a lull that lasted through the winter and beyond.
But Occupy protesters were determined to come out in force to mark the movement's birthday, with protests over the weekend set to culminate in Monday's encircling of Wall Street.
People were gathering near Zuccotti park at 7am, and by 7.30am there were 300-400 people stationed opposite the famous former encampment, far fewer than in the movement's heyday, when more than 10,000 people regularly came out in support. It was a beautiful, warm September's morning, just like the days last autumn when protesters kicked off demonstrations that were reported across the globe. The nature of the protests were similar, too, as protesters attempted to "shut down" Wall Street, while their failure to achieve that goal also had a sense of deja vu.
The group at Zuccotti Park was set to be one of four meeting points around lower Manhattan, with the separate demonstrations intending to surround the city's iconic financial centre.
As it turned out, Wall Street remained open, although there was some disruption.
A large police presence nullified protesters' attempts to access Wall Street, with officers arresting dozens of people in the early actions. A repeated theme of the detentions was police rushing forward to seize people identified as agitators. By about 5pm, 150 people had been arrested in New York, a significant number for demonstrations attended by comfortably fewer than a thousand people. At the end of the night, close to 200 arrests had been made.
Only people with work ID cards were allowed on to the street, with financial workers, many disgruntled, having to negotiate the crowd.
"You know, I was just thinking it's getting a little tiresome," said one besuited man with a thick grey moustache. "I just had to walk half a mile to get into my building."
There were signs, however, that Occupy Wall Street still has mainstream support. "I think they're exercising what everyone is feeling – even though we have to go to work we're still supporting what they're protesting," said 50-year-old Gabriel Adeniyi, who was watching the procession close to Wall Street, where he works as an underwriting specialist for a trust company.
"The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."
While people may empathise with the cause, however, there was a sense of frustration among some onlookers. One man who gave his name as Bill summed it up: "They've been around, I have some sympathy, but their message is really unfocused."
The game of cat and mouse with police was quite deja vu inducing, as protesters roamed the streets, changing course as officers appeared in front of them and being ordered to "keep on the sidewalk" repeatedly.
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