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'Occupy Wall Street' protests spread all the way to West Coast

-by Sarah Ryley

October 3, 2011- The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have rapidly become a “big tent” movement that organizers claim has sparked more than 70 similar occupations in public parks across the nation.

What started three weeks ago as a small group of angry college students camped out in Zuccotti Park, a public plaza near the New York Stock Exchange, has drawn thousands — foreclosure victims and union workers, Marines, monks and even a tight contingency of Ron Paul supporters — who all share the sentiment that the government and Wall Street are responsible for “99 percent” of Americans getting the short end of the economic stick.

Now more than 800 people have been arrested in New York, as well as 24 in Boston, and at least six in San Francisco in similar protests. And several hundred were camping out in front of Los Angeles’ City Hall yesterday.

“It’s bringing together a large swath of America,” said Rachel Laforest, executive director of Right to the City, a nationwide coalition lending its union members, faith activists and struggling masses to Occupy movements in 13 cities.

And thousands have pledged to camp out in Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza indefinitely starting on Thursday. That protest had been planned for months but swelled with support once Occupy Wall Street garnered international publicity, said organizer and Vietnam-era Army vet Ward Reilly of Baton Rouge, La.

Reilly claims 173 of his fellow veterans have already been arrested this year outside the White House while protesting corporate control of Congress.

“We’re going to put Washington under siege,” said Reilly.

Back in New York City, Zuccotti Park near Wall Street remained jammed with protesters last night, despite the arrests a day before of more than 700 people who stormed the Brooklyn Bridge, along with nagging drizzle and no major march planned until Wednesday, when four labor unions plan to show up.

Police resistance — and some say mistreatment — has only galvanized support.

“As always, if it is a lawful demonstration, we help facilitate, and if they break the law, we arrest them,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Associated Press. He said eight people were still in custody.

The Fire Department said it had gone to the site several times over the past week to check for any fire safety hazards arising from people living in the plaza, but there have been no major issues.

Financial District residents and businesses have begun to complain about the disruption, but participating actress Anca Suiu, 36, said it’s “going to be one ugly eviction” if police attempt to force them out.

“They can’t keep us from coming back,” said Milo Gonzalez, 20, a florist who has been arrested twice and is suing the city for injuries. Gonzalez, along with several others, told The Daily that uniformed officers expressed solidarity with them even as they were being cuffed.

Dozens also remained camped in Boston’s Dewey Square last night.



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