NEW YORK — Police arrested protesters who sat on the ground and blocked traffic into New York City’s financial district on Thursday, part of a day of mass gatherings in response to efforts to break up Occupy Wall Street camps nationwide.
Police in riot helmets hauled several protesters to their feet and handcuffed them at an intersection one block from Wall Street.
“All day, all week, shut down Wall Street!” the crowd chanted.
Hundreds of protesters thronged intersections around the financial district, an area of narrow, crooked streets running between stately sandstone buildings housing banks, brokerage houses and the New York Stock Exchange.
After several arrests along one street, protesters retreated. A line of riot police followed them and set up metal barricades.
“You do not have a parade permit! You are blocking the street!” a police officer told protesters through a bullhorn.
A few blocks away, a separate group of about 50 protesters sat in a circle on the ground and said they would not budge.
The congestion brought taxis and delivery trucks to a halt. Police were allowing Wall Street workers through the barricades, but only after checking their IDs.
The protest marked two months since the Occupy Wall Street Movement sprang to life on Sept. 17 with a failed attempt to pitch a protest camp in front of the New York Stock Exchange. After police kept them out of Wall Street, the protesters pitched a camp in nearby Zuccotti Park, across from the World Trade Center site.
On Tuesday police raided Zuccotti Park and cleared out dozens of tents, tarps and sleeping bags.
“This is a critical moment for the movement given what happened the other night,” Paul Knick, 44, a software engineer from Montclair, N.J., said as he marched through the financial district with other protesters on Thursday. “It seems like there’s a concerted effort to stop the movement and I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Similar protests were planned around the county.
In Dallas, police evicted dozens of protesters from their campsite near City Hall citing public safety and hygiene issues. They arrested 18 protesters who refused to leave.
Organizers in New York said protesters would fan out across Manhattan later on Thursday and head to subways, then gather downtown and march over the Brooklyn bridge.
Passer-by Gene Williams, a 57-year-old bond trader, joked that he was “one of the bad guys” but that he empathized with the demonstrators.
“They have a point in a lot of ways,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it’s getting wider.”
New York City officials said they had not spoken to demonstrators but were aware of the plans.
“The protesters are calling for a massive event aimed at disrupting major parts of the city,” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said. “We will be prepared for that.”