NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anti-Wall Street demonstrators marched against New York police on Tuesday, accusing some officers of excessive force when carrying out arrests during a month-long protest campaign against economic inequality.
Nearly a thousand people have been arrested and police have used pepper spray at rallies in New York by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on September 17 and has sparked global protests.
The protests, driven by social media, culminated in global rallies on Saturday that were mostly peaceful apart from in Rome, where riots broke out.
“They tackled me,” protester Zach Welch, 24, of Rochester, said of his recent arrest by New York police during a protest outside a bank. “They stepped on me. They slammed my hands into the van ... They charged me with resisting arrest.”
Welch was among about 100 demonstrators who protested outside the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Tuesday.
In New York, more than 700 people were arrested on October 2 during an attempted unauthorized march on the Brooklyn Bridge, while another 92 were arrested on Saturday on minor charges.
“We’ve received about 500 arrests from the NYPD (so far),” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters on Tuesday. He declined to say if any police officers were being investigated in response to the protesters’ complaints.
A law enforcement source said police handling of several protest incidents was being investigated by prosecutors. New York police did not respond to requests for comment.
Holding a photocopied paper sign in one hand that read “End NYPD Violence”, 24-year-old Milo Gonzalez of Manhattan shouted to protesters on Tuesday: “I’d love to hold this up with both hands, but I can‘t.”
He accused police officers of damaging tendons in his arms when they arrested him during a September 24 protest. He said he was arrested again later on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Occupy movement has sprung up in cities across America and prompted hundreds of arrests from Boston and Washington to Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego and Austin, Texas.
Occupy Arrests, a Twitter feed compiling arrests related to Occupy Wall Street, said that 1,770 people had been arrested around the world so far.
The protesters say they are upset that the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.
They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes. But it remained unclear if the protesters’ movement can sustain momentum. Critics have accused it of lacking a clear message or goal.
New York Times columnist Nate Silver has estimated that about 70,000 protesters attended protests in 150 U.S. cities on Saturday during the global day of action. He compared that to the first large protests by the conservative Tea Party group in 2009, which were attended by an estimated 300,000 people.
“We shouldn’t rival the Tea Party but rather we should invite them to join us as they are part of the 99 percent,” Occupy Wall Street posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
On Friday, a showdown between protesters and New York police was averted when the owner of the publicly accessible Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, postponed a cleanup that demonstrators had feared was a guise to remove them.
“The constitution doesn’t protect tents. It protects speech and assembly,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Monday.
Bloomberg’s longtime girlfriend Diana Taylor is on the board of directors at Brookfield Office Properties, but the mayor said: “I can tell you that pillow talk in our house is not about Brookfield or Occupy Wall Street.”
Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld and Joseph Ax, Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Johnston