Updated 09/26/2011 09:35 AM
Wall Street Protests Continue As NYPD Remains Mum On Pepper Spray Use
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Many of the dozens of protesters who were arrested this weekend were back in Lower Manhattan on Sunday to demonstrate against what they call big business' influence on government, as the New York City Police Department avoided comment on its alleged use of pepper spray while containing yesterday's crowds.
Large crowds of demonstrators were holding a ninth day of so-called "Occupy Wall Street" protests in Zuccotti Park on Sunday, as police keep a watchful eye nearby.
They vowed to continue speaking out on how the government handles economic issues, including bank bailouts and the mortgage crisis.
"One in five New Yorkers is living in poverty. Ten percent of the American population is unemployed," said protester Amanda Clarke.
Police say about 80 protesters were arrested on Saturday, and most were taken into custody for illegally blocking traffic as they marched up to Union Square.
Authorities said that the marchers did not have a permit.
The arrested demonstrators were also charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and in one instance, assaulting a police officer.
Nevertheless, some protesters told NY1 they did not regret their run-in with the police, saying that now the ongoing demonstrations on economic issues are in the public eye.
"If nothing else, we're really getting people's attention," said Clarke. "They're realizing that this isn't just some gratuitous, 'we have extra time' thing. This is something really important."
"They didn't really know what this was about and what our motives were, and they didn't know that we were intending to stay for a long time, but that's really changed," said protester Victoria Sobel.
"I would gladly go through that whole ordeal over and over again for the same result, because now I think we have a lot of more media coverage and a lot more people are paying attention," said protester Milo Gonzalez, who claims his shoulder was dislocated when he was arrested on Saturday.
Video of a police officer spraying demonstrators on Saturday was posted on YouTube, and protestors have complained that police used excessive force.
By Sunday evening, the NYPD had not yet commented on the video, but news of the wave of arrests sparked a debate over free speech.
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said the safety of New Yorkers always comes first.
"You certainly cannot take over a New York City street. That is a serious situation. We have emergency vehicles to get through, people have actually jobs to get to, unlike these protestors, apparently," said Vallone. "And the police have every right to use the force that they deem necessary to arrest if people aren't cooperating."
Vallone went on to say he believes the NYPD acted well within its rights.
He believes videos posted by demonstrators on the Internet only show the worst of the situation.
Zuccotti Park, where the protesters are camped out, is privately owned by Brookfield Global Real Estate. On Sunday, workers passed flyers from the company with a list of rules, including no camping or sleeping bags.
As of Sunday, the company had not asked protestors to leave, but it was working with the city to restore the park to its intended purpose.