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'Let us go!': About 700 arrested in Wall Street protest

About 500 anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested on Saturday after blocking traffic lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge and attempting an unauthorized march across the span, police and witnesses said.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

New York City police say about 700 protesters have been arrested after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and blocked traffic lanes for several hours.

On the second week of protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement, a large group of marchers broke off from others on the bridge's pedestrian walkway and headed across the Brooklyn-bound lanes.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 01: Police arrest demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement after they attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on the motorway on October 1, 2011 New York City. The highway is not intended for pedestrians, the marchers attempted to cross the bridge on the highway and were stopped on the middle of the bridge by police. Police were in the process of arresting hundreds of the protesters on the bridge. Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are opposed to outsized corporate profits on Wall Street. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)Mario Tama / Getty Images North America

Police say demonstrators spilled onto the roadway Saturday night after being told to stay on the pedestrian pathway. They face charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Some of the protesters said that authorities had tricked, trapped and then arrested them, according to The New York Times.

"The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway," Occupy Wall Street media coordinator Jesse Myerson told the newspaper.

A majority of the people arrested were given citations and released, The Associated Press reported.

Both the walkway and Brooklyn-bound car lanes were shut to traffic, snarling traffic. Police reopened the bridge at 8:05 p.m. EDT.

'We are not criminals'
Witnesses described a chaotic scene on the famous suspension bridge as a sea of police officers surrounded the protesters using orange mesh netting.

Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and social inequality took their "solidarity march" to Brooklyn, but battled in a war of words against officers, chanting "We are not criminals" and "Let us go!"

Some protesters tried to get away as officers started handcuffing members of the group. Dozens of protesters were seen handcuffed and sitting on the span as three buses were called in to take them away, witnesses and organizers said.

The New York Times reported a few protesters had "clambered dangerously up the structure of the bridge to get to the wooden pedestrian walkway, which is about 15 feet above the road."

Erin Larkins, a graduate student at Columbia University who says she and her boyfriend have $130,000 combined in student loan debt, was among the thousands of protesters on the bridge. She said a friend persuaded her to join the march and she's glad she did.

"I don't think we're asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again," Larkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

"No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world listen."

The march started about 3:30 p.m. EDT from the protesters' camp in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan near the former World Trade Center. Members of the group have vowed to stay at the park through the winter.

The Occupy Wall Street group was joined by various unions, including the Transit Workers Union and the United Federation of Teachers, in the march to Brooklyn.

An Occupy Wall Street protester lays with his dog on a mattress in Zuccotti Park in New York October 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS CIVIL UNREST)Jessica Rinaldi / X01704

Celebrity support
In addition to what they view as excessive force and unfair treatment of minorities, including Muslims, the movement is also protesting against home foreclosures, high unemployment and the 2008 bailouts.

Filmmaker Michael Moore and actress Susan Sarandon have stopped by the protesters' camp, which is plastered with posters with anti-Wall Street slogans and has a kitchen and library, to offer their support.

On Friday evening, more than 1,000 demonstrators, including representatives of labor organizations, held a peaceful march to police headquarters a few blocks north of City Hall to protest what they said was a heavy-handed police response the previous week. No arrests were reported.

A week ago, police arrested about 80 members of Occupy Wall Street near the Union Square shopping district as the marchers swarmed onto oncoming traffic.

A police commander doused a handful of women with pepper spray in an incident captured on video and spread via the Internet, galvanizing the loosely organized protest movement.

The group has gained support among some union members. The United Federation of Teachers and the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which has 38,000 members, are among those pledging solidarity.

The unions could provide important organizational and financial support for the largely leaderless movement.

Similar protests are sprouting in other cities, including Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

NBC News New York and staff contributed to this report, as did Reuters and The Associated Press.