Police say more than 70 people were taken into custody following a rally at the park where the Occupy movement was born.
Hundreds of protesters had returned to Zuccotti Park near Wall Street on Saturday to mark the six months that have passed since the movement began. They locked arms and sat down after police announced on a bullhorn at around 11:30 p.m. that the park was closed.
Officers poured into the park, forcing out most of the crowd and surrounding a small group that stayed behind. Police formed a human ring around the park to keep protesters out.
Authorities say 73 people were detained. It was unclear how many were still in custody Sunday afternoon.
For hours, the demonstrators had been chanting and holding impromptu meetings in the park.
New York Police Detective Brian Sessa said the tipping point came when the protesters started breaking the park rules.
“They set up tents. They had sleeping bags,” he said. Electrical boxes also were tampered with and there was evidence of graffiti.
Sessa said Brookfield Properties, the park owner, sent in security to advise the protesters to stop pitching tents and to leave the park. The protesters, in turn, became agitated with them. The company then asked the police to help them clear out the park, the detective said.
“Most of the people, they left the park,” Sessa said. “People who refused to leave and were staying were arrested.”
Many protesters shouted and officers took out their batons after a demonstrator threw a glass bottle at the bus that police were using to detain protesters.
Sandra Nurse, a member of Occupy’s direct action working group, said police treated demonstrators roughly and made arbitrary arrests. She disputed the police assertion that demonstrators had broken park rules by putting up tents or getting out sleeping bags.
“I didn’t see any sleeping bags,” she said. “There was a banner hung between two trees and a tarp thrown over it … It wasn’t a tent. It was an erect thing, if that’s what you want to call it.”
She said they had reports of about 25 demonstrators arrested in the police sweep.
Earlier in the day, with the city’s attention focused on the huge St. Patrick’s Day parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally at Zuccotti drew hundreds of people.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who had given a speech at a nearby university, also made an appearance at the park, milling around with protesters.
With the barricades that once blocked them from Wall Street now removed, the protesters streamed down the sidewalk and covered the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial. There, steps from the New York Stock Exchange and standing at the feet of a statue of George Washington, they danced and chanted, “We are unstoppable.”
Police say arrests were made, but they didn’t have a full count yet.