NEW YORK – New York City police on Monday arrested 124 Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrating the movement’s first birthday as events drew fewer participants than similar demonstrations in May.
Hundreds of marchers took to the streets just after dawn from Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, the physical birthplace and symbolic heart of the global movement. Police on foot, motorcycle and horseback trailed them at every turn.
The protests failed to keep the markets from opening as scheduled, though some commuters in the largest U.S. city were inconvenienced as police blocked off parts of the Financial District near the New York Stock Exchange and asked transit officials to close the Broad Street subway station. Richard Swensson, a 24-year-old college graduate, said he missed a job interview.
“I couldn’t even get near the building and had to call to say I wouldn’t make it,” Swensson said in Battery Park. He said he understood the frustrations of the protesters but wished they would “think a little bit more instead of just getting all rallied up.”
Monday’s numbers contrast with Occupy Wall Street’s last major public event, on May 1, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators across the United States as protesters sang in Manhattan’s Union Square, smashed windows in Seattle and seized a vacant building in San Francisco. In New York, 34 were arrested in the May Day rallies.
Most of Monday’s arrests were for disorderly conduct for impeding vehicular or pedestrian traffic, and follow more than 40 others over the weekend, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department. Police are “accommodating lawful protests” and making arrests for crimes such as blocking traffic, Browne said in an email.
Dozens of police, some in riot helmets, arrested people, including a purple-cassocked bishop, at the Broadway entrance to Wall Street.
“I’ve been arrested four times now, and I’ll get arrested 1,000 times more until we see some change,” said Barry Knight, a 44-year-old actor from Massachusetts. “We’re fighting for nothing less than the future of our country. Do you want your kids to grow up in ‘corptocracy’ or in a democracy?”
Members of the movement are seeking to revive the energy and emotion generated when thousands took to the streets to protest income disparity, corporate greed and the influence of money on politics.
Protesters say the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans benefit at the expense of the rest.
Corporate targets of Monday’s disruption include the Broadway retail branches of Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase, along with Deutsche Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Liberty Street and American International Group, according to planning materials. Events were scheduled in at least 15 other cities.