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Protesters invade NYC Financial District

More than 1,000 demonstrators descended on New York City's Financial District on Saturday for what could be a days-long protest of what they said was corporate greed.
Image: Protestors demonstrate near Wall Street against banks and corporations in New York
Protesters demonstrate Saturday near New York's Wall Street against banks and corporations.Eric Thayer / Reuters
/ Source: staff and news service reports

More than 1,000 demonstrators descended on New York City's Financial District on Saturday for what could be a days-long protest of what they said was corporate greed favoring the rich at the expense of ordinary people.

The rally, dubbed #OccupyWallStreet on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook where word was spread, spurred the New York Police Department to lock down Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, local media reported.

Police set up checkpoints to allow only those who could prove they lived or worked on Wall Street to enter, the New York Daily News reported.

Pictures posted on Twitter and elsewhere showed police and barricades around the famous bronze Charging Bull statue on lower Broadway at the north end of Bowling Green park.

"A protest area was established on Broad Street at Exchange Street, next to the stock exchange, but protesters elected not to use it," police spokesman Paul Browne said in a statement reported by The New York Times.

Demonstrators gathered in parks and plazas in Lower Manhattan and said they were determined to stay at least through the weekend so they could confront Wall Street workers on Monday morning.

Some protesters said they would stay weeks or months and likened their rally to demonstrations earlier this year in Egypt, Israel and Spain.

"It's a worthy cause because people on Wall Street are blood-sucking warmongers," Bill Steyerd, 68, a Vietnam veteran from Queens, told the New York Daily News. "I'm here, and in spite of these dinky barricades, we're going to shut down Wall Street with people power."

Counterculture magazine Adbusters and hacking group Anonymous were among the organizers asking participants to set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades, NY1 television station reported. Organizers hoped to draw at least 20,000 during the weekend. Satellite demonstrations were held in Los Angeles and Seattle under a Day of Rage banner, and in  Barcelona, Spain, and elsewhere.

Participants tweeted pictures of a free food station loaded with jars of peanut butter to help sustain protesters.

Saturday evening, the protesters shown in livestream video were deciding where to spend the night, on Wall Street area sidewalks, the nearby Staten Island ferry plaza or parks.

Protesters set up at Zucotti Park on Broadway but it was not immediately clear if police would let them stay there overnight, but they were still camped out early Sunday morning.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that the protesters have a right to be heard, as long as they do not interfere with others' rights.

"CEOs, the biggest corporations, and the wealthy are taking too much from our country and I think it's time for us to take back," one protester told NY1.

"What I hope to accomplish is that people who have gotten in trouble on Wall Street actually pay an equal share for what they've done," said another.

Dave Woessner, 31, a student at Harvard Divinity School, was among those marching near the bull statue early in the afternoon.

"When you idealize financial markets as salvific you embrace the idea that profit is all that matters," he told the Times.

"A lot of us feel there is a large crisis in our economy and a lot of it is caused by the folks who do business here," said Jason Ahmadi, 26, from Oakland, Calif., told the Daily News.

Several hundred at nightfall tried to reach Wall Street after marching through nearby streets, the Times reported. However, police blocked them and the march ended at a building housing Cipriani Wall Street, a high end restaurant built into the former home of financial institutions, and from where patrons could be seen in tweeted pictures raising drinks in their honor.

Protesters responded by pointing at them and chanting "pay your share," the Times reported.

Some said they plan to heckle President Barack Obama, who will be at the United Nations General Assembly during the week.