Protesters march in Manhattan, criticizing Wall Street

NEW YORK Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:09pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Several hundred marchers wound their way through the streets of lower Manhattan on Saturday in the latest of a string of protests over the past week against what demonstrators saw as corporate greed on Wall Street.

The demonstrations, participants said, were meant to criticize a financial system that they believed unfairly benefits corporations and the rich. They said the protests were inspired by demonstrations in Egypt and Spain.

The marchers carried signs spelling out their goals. "Tax the rich," one sign said. "We Want Money for Healthcare not Corporate Welfare," read another.

At least a dozen protesters were arrested during the largely peaceful march that lasted more than three hours and wound its way north from the financial district into the bustling Union Square area.

The demonstrators were mostly college-aged marchers carrying American flags and signs with anti-corporate slogans. Some beat drums, blew horns and chanted slogans as uniformed officers surrounded and videotaped them.

"Occupy Wall Street," they chanted, "all day, all week."

Organizers said their intent was to occupy Wall Street but, with metal barricades and swarms of police officers in front of the New York Stock Exchange, the closest they could get was Liberty Street, about three blocks away.

The first arrest came shortly after noon near the stock exchange. Several blocks away, another protester, who identified himself as Robert Stephens, was arrested after kneeling in the middle of the street outside the Chase Bank building.

"That's the bank that took my mother's home," said Stephens, a law student, before being handcuffed.

An online activist group called Adbusters organized the weeklong event and word spread via social media, yet the throngs of protesters it had hoped for failed to show up.

"I was kind of disappointed with the turnout," said Itamar Lilienthal, 19, a New York University student and marcher.

The protest appeared smaller than a "Day of Rage" a week ago that turned out to be largely peaceful.

Tourists along the march stopped to snap photos, and some acknowledged the demonstrators with waves and peace signs but few joined the protest.

Laurie Hull, who was visiting New York with her husband from Oregon, stopped to watch and said the couple empathized with the marchers after filing for bankruptcy and living without health insurance.

Near Union Square Park, more than two hours into the march, police attempted to corral the demonstrators behind police lines. But surging protesters weaved around the officers and moved onward, prompting shoving matches that ended with more arrests.

(Editing by Lauren Keiper and Cynthia Johnston)

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