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Occupy protesters held in US May Day rallies

03 may 2012, 10:18
Thousands of Occupy protesters marched on Wall Street in New York in the highlight of a May Day "general strike," while police arrested dozens in sporadic clashes on the US West Coast, AFP reports.

Police used tear gas during the protests Tuesday in Oakland, California, and Seattle, where windows were smashed, while some 20 people were detained in Portland, Oregon and 10 at Los Angeles international airport.

In New York mounted police were deployed to keep protestors out of Wall Street itself, barring access to the famous financial thoroughfare to anyone without proof of residency.

One protestor was handcuffed as he tried to get to Wall Street's iconic bronze bull statue. After a prolonged struggle watched by jeering crowds, the man was carried away, although only after kicking out a police car window and being put in a restraining jacket.

Some locals were not pleased. "This is absurd and we allow it to go on," said one young woman, who said she lived there and had shown proof of address. "It's useless. Nothing will change because of this.

"All I want to do is be able to go home after working my ass off all day."

Protests appeared to be peaceful and AFP reporters witnessed only five arrests during early events, in contrast to previous Occupy marches that have typically ended in scuffles with the police and mass arrests on minor charges.

Activists say they are protesting against corporate greed and the plight of ordinary people in an anemic economy and housing market. "Hey, hey, BOA, who did you foreclose today?" some chanted at a Bank of America office building.

Similar protests were announced across dozens of US cities and in countries ranging from Spain to Australia.

"While American corporate media has focused on yet another stale election between Wall Street-financed candidates, Occupy has been organizing something extraordinary: the first truly nationwide General Strike in US history," the OWS movement said on its website occupywallst.org.

On the West Coast, police made a number of arrests in Oakland, California -- the scene of repeated protests last year, some of which turned violent -- using tear gas to quell clashes.

The Oakland clashes came after officers ordered the crowd to clear a downtown intersection and many refused to move, chanting, "We are not afraid. The whole world is watching," the Contra Costa Times reported.

In nearby San Francisco, Occupy members canceled a protest on the famed Golden Gate Bridge.

In Seattle, downtown retail stores sustained extensive damage. A Wells Fargo branch and the city courthouse were also damaged. At least two people were arrested as police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters.

In Los Angeles, 10 people were arrested near the city's airport for obstructing a main access road, while three were held downtown as thousands joined rallies, snarling traffic but remaining largely peaceful.

In Oregon police arrested at least 19 people in Portland, where some protestors were described as "very combative" and fought officers while being arrested. A fire was also started in a parking garage, police said.

The day of action unfolded against the backdrop of a rancorous presidential election campaign, but it also tested the Occupy movement's ability to regain influence months after police tore down its tent camps in several cities.

OWS appeared in New York for the first time last September, with activists taking over a square near Wall Street to protest against government bank bailouts, corporate greed and the economic struggles of ordinary people.

But after police across America ejected OWS protesters from public squares two months later, the movement struggled to stay in the limelight and to back up its claim to represent the mainstream public, the so-called 99 percent.

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