BOSTON (Reuters) - Tensions boiled over early on Tuesday in downtown Boston, where police arrested more than 100 protesters after the Occupy Boston group expanded its footprint and was told by authorities to move back.
Protesters said that late on Monday police had issued an ultimatum to return to their small original encampment by nightfall or be moved along.
Protesters’ tents have been set up in Dewey Square Park in downtown Boston all month but on Monday expanded to a larger section of the nearby Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
Shortly after midnight, hundreds of Boston and Transit police officers, some in riot gear, moved in, handcuffing protesters and tearing down tents.
Police said 129 people were arrested, most for unlawful assembly.
“At 1:30 this morning hundreds of police in full riot gear brutally attacked Occupy Boston,” the protest group said in a news release, adding that authorities “made no distinction between protesters, medics, or legal observers.”
Police said no one was injured in the maneuver.
Metal barriers were erected around the section of the greenway on Tuesday as the protesters returned to Dewey Square Park.
Among those arrested was 58-year-old small business owner Michael Turner, who said he was taken into custody about 2 a.m. while sitting on the greenway, arms locked in a circle with other supporters.
“I just had to come,” said Turner, who along with his wife has stopped by before and had donated supplies.
“I think corporate America is screwing us, basically,” he said.
Turner, who said he was last arrested in Boston some 40 years ago protesting the Vietnam War, said the police were polite and in his view the situation was calm.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said in a Twitter message he was sympathetic to the Occupy Boston cause, but public safety was a priority.
“We all want to fight for the middle class,” a second tweet from the mayor said. “Still, need to respect all our residents and make sure the city runs smoothly.”
Many of those arrested were scheduled to appear in Boston Municipal Court throughout the week.
Occupy Boston organizers linked on their website to an online collection site to fund legal aid for those arrested.
More than $7,000 was donated from about 220 people by mid-day, according to the website.
Boston earlier saw one of its biggest rallies so far in a movement that began in New York last month to protest against perceived Wall Street excesses and other social issues and has spread to cities across the nation.
Hundreds of protesters, including many college students, marched in support of Occupy Boston.
Protests across the country have objected to what they see as an unacceptable income gap between rich and poor.
They also complained about the Wall Street bailout in 2008, which they say aided banks while average Americans suffered under high unemployment and job insecurity.
Additional reporting by Adam Hunger and Lauren Keiper; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Jerry Norton