The new year began with renewed conflict at New York's Zuccotti Park as dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested after they tore down the barricades that have surrounded the site since their encampment was dismantled in November.
About 500 protesters gathered in the park Saturday night, where they rang in 2012 with songs and their trademark chant of We are the 99 percent, the Associated Press reported.
About an hour before midnight, after a relatively quiet evening, some protesters began to tear down the barricades that have surrounded the park since New York police destroyed the OWS camp on Nov. 15. Police then moved in.
They got very aggressive and started pushing people and pepper-spraying people, protester Jason Amadi, 27, of San Jose, Calif., told the AP Sunday. I got pepper-sprayed in the face.
The protesters said they worked at sections of the park in teams of twos and threes, retreating only when police converged and pulled the barricades back.
People were collecting all the barricades and making kind of a big heap of them in the middle of the park, said Melanie Butler, 30, of Brooklyn. And we were standing on it with our Occupy Wall Street banner.
The NYPD said 68 people were arrested, and at least one person was accused of assaulting a police officer, who suffered cuts on one hand. Other charges included trespassing, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.
Police were still processing the arrests Sunday morning, but some protesters had been released. Police provided no other details on the confrontation.
The New York Times reported that a police commander announced that Zuccotti Park, normally open 24 hours a day, was closed until 9 a.m., but did not provide a reason. A few moments later, officers told the crowd that had just been moved out of the park that the sidewalks around the park were also closed, and directed people across Broadway.
Before the park was cleared, about 200 protesters marched north and into the East Village. At 13th Street and 2nd Avenue, officers surrounded dozens of protesters walking on the sidewalk around 3 a.m. and began arresting some of them, the Times reported.
“We were trying to go to Tompkins Square Park,” said Isham Christie. “The police blocked us and we doubled back and they blocked us again.”
Christie said that about 50 people were eventually surrounded by officers on a stretch of sidewalk on Second Avenue. “They arrested most of them,” he said.