What started as a protest to occupy Wall Street seems to have turned into a protest that wants to occupy more New York locations.
Anti-Wall Street demonstrators said Saturday they are becoming too large for their current lower Manhattan digs and are exploring other public-space options for encampment in New York.
For the last three weeks, protesters have been living near Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, staging rallies and marches that, for the most part, have proceeded peacefully; some have resulted in clashes and arrests with the police.
On Saturday, several hundred protesters marched to Washington Square Park -- the site of protests against the Vietnam war in the 1960s and 1970s -- to discuss expansion, Reuters reported.
No arrests were made.
"We're not going to give up Liberty Plaza," said Lucas Vazquez, a student leading Saturday's march. Liberty Plaza is what the protesters call Zuccotti Park. "It's sometimes hard to move around there. We have a lot of people," he said.
Roughly 250 are camping out near Zuccotti Park. By late Saturday afternoon, no decision had been reached.
Occupy Wall Street officially began on Sept. 17. The movement, which is an offshoot of online magazine AdBusters, is angered by what it calls the principle of "profit over and above all else." This, it argues, has dominated America's economic policies and the way in which Americans view culture and humanity.
Posts on the Web site compare the group's efforts to those used in pro-democracy movements across the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring.
"On the 17th of September, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months," one statement read. "Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants."
It's unclear exactly what the protesters will ask for in exchange for leaving Wall Street.
"More than having any specific demand, per se, I think the purpose of Sept. 17, for many of us who are helping to organize it and people who are coming out, is to begin a conversation, as citizens, as people affected by this financial system in collapse, as to how we're going to fix it, as to what we're going to do in order to make it work for us again," said Justin Wedes, an event organizer.The rally itself was first called for by Adbusters in July.
On Wednesday, police arrested 28 people, mostly for disorderly conduct. At least one arrest was for assaulting a police officer and, police said, one protester knocked an officer off his scooter.
The arrests, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said, were because Occupy Wall Street protesters attacked the police.
"What they did is they counted. They actually had a countdown - 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 - they grouped together, they joined arms and they charged the police. They attacked the police. They wanted to get into Wall Street, they wanted to occupy Wall Street," Kelly told reporters.
The commissioner said that if the Occupy Wall Street protesters target the police, authorities will respond with "force."
"They're going to be met with force when they do that - this is just common sense," Kelly said. "These people wanted to have a confrontation with the police for whatever reason. Somehow, I guess it works to their purposes."
Kelly also told reporters that the protests, thus far, have cost the city about $2 million in overtime for officers assigned to cover the demonstrations.
Despite the skirmishes, Kelly maintained that as long as the protesters were peaceful, and followed the rules, there would be no problems.
"We are accommodating peaceful protests. We are proud of the fact that we do that in this city. People are going to be here for an extended period of time. We're going to accommodate them as long as they do it peacefully and in accordance with the laws and regulations," he said.