In a premeditated act of civil disobedience, 99 protesters got themselves arrested at the Brooklyn Bridge Thursday. The number was symbolic and meant to draw attention to Occupy Wall Street's message that they represent 99 percent of Americans.
"It was amazing going across the bridge. You know, getting up to the bridge was a bit of a slog. Everyone kind of bottlenecked at this park we had to walk through, but once we got onto the bridge we felt the spirit really kicked up," said one protester.
"It was energizing. It was exhilarating. This was the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street today. And the fact that we've been dislocated from this park—it had the opposite effect. There was mobilization across the city," said another.
Early Tuesday morning, police officers cleared Zucotti Park, forcing out occupiers who had been living there. Protesters were eventually allowed back in but without tents and sleeping bags.
Thursday was a “Day of Action” across the city, which included clashes with police and multiple arrests.
"I do know that some people were hit with batons during the march, which is a shame because the constitution says we have a right to protest and reform our government," said one protester.
The message of Occupy Wall Street has always been about income inequality, and even though they can longer camp out in Zuccotti, their mission has not changed.
"Overall, it's fundamental change in how this operates. Right now everything's operated from corporations first, and the people feel disenfranchised," said one protester.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a symbolic landmark to the Occupy Wall Street movement. On October 1, demonstrators marched over the bridge and managed to shut it down, leading to the arrests of 700 people. Some say that incident and police pepper-spraying protesters helped galvanize the movement.
Protesters Gather At Union Square Prior To Downtown March
Students from NYU, The New School, and CUNY rallied in Union Square earlier Thursday.
“We are paying way too much for education, the global economic system is collapsing, we're demanding justice for students, we’re demanding justice for working people, we’re demanding justice for oppressed people everywhere," said one student.
They joined workers and unions, converging on the square from several directions. In the afternoon, the crowd swelled to more than 1,000.
"I think there needs to be a lot of social change in this country right now,” said one student.
Protesters rallied at the Union Square subway, one of 16 subway locations occupied throughout Thursday.
There were no disruptions at this location underground, but above ground demonstrators tied up traffic on Fifth Avenue while marching to Foley Square.
Several thousand people gathered here.
Unions and community groups organized the rally complete with a loudspeaker and free signs.
Seemingly every group that supported Occupy Wall Street during its now two-month old movement made appearances.
The now familiar theme emerged: concern with the growing divide between rich and poor.
“There has been a class war waged by the rich since 1981 on everybody else," said one protester.
"Large corporations being able to basically have Congress in their pockets," said another.
The frustration found an outlet for some by talking, others by walking. And like other rallies on Thursday, others were arrested.
Of all the protests throughout the day and night, though, Union Square and Foley Square seemed the ones with the least amount of conflict with authorities.
Retired Police Captain Among Those Arrested
Police arrested a retired Philadelphia police captain among the hundreds of people taken into custody during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Former Police Captain Ray Lewis was arrested in full dress uniform near Wall Street.
He retired in 2004 and came to New York recently to join the demonstration. He said police are being exploited by the richest one percent of Americans.
"Day Of Action" Spreads Nationwide
The “Day of Action” protests extended far beyond the city's borders.
In Washington, demonstrators marched to the Key Bridge connecting Arlington, Virginia to the nation's capital.
Protesters said the bridge is a prime example of the nation's ailing infrastructure that needs to be fixed.
Hundreds marched in Los Angeles's financial district.
Police arrested at least 23 people, including 21 who circled around tents several people had set up in the middle of an intersection.
In Pittsburgh, marchers took to Greenfield Bridge, unfurling a sign that read “Good Jobs Now.”
And 20 people were handcuffed in Portland, Oregon for sitting on the pavement of the Steel Bridge, which was closed to traffic.