Protests born on Wall Street spreading across US

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Anti-Wall Street protests that  took shape in New York weeks ago, prompting hundreds of  arrests, have spread across the United States with one  organizer saying their message had “captured everyone’s  imagination.”

Demonstrations have sprouted from Los Angeles to Boston,  and in plenty of cities in between, led by protesters voicing  discontent and anger over such issues as high unemployment,  home foreclosures and the 2008 corporate bailouts.

Washington will be the site of a protest on Thursday,  according to organizer Kevin Zeese, who said economic  insecurity was encouraging people to take to the streets.
“Just like the Vietnam war draft made the war more  personal, economic insecurity is making the economic policies  of this country more personal,” Zeese said.

The New York protests, working under the banner of “We are  the 99 percent,” have become bolder since they started on Sept.  17 and while they have been largely peaceful, aside from  occasional scuffles, they have sometimes challenged police.
On Saturday, more than 700 people were arrested when demonstrators blocked traffic lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge  while attempting an unauthorized march across the span.

In Florida, a weekend protest drew a crowd carrying signs  reading “End Corporate Welfare” and “It is Time for a  Revolution.” Another protest was planned for Tampa on Thursday.

Unions were also joining the fray. The New York branch of  the Transport Workers Union asked a federal judge on Tuesday to  bar police from using city bus drivers to transport protesters  who were under arrest. The judge denied the request.

The nation’s largest union of nurses, National Nurses  United, said it would join a New York march on Wednesday. And  Healthcare-Now, which advocates for a national single-payer  system, said it was joining the Washington protest to “demand human needs over corporate greed.”

“This could have legs to it,” said author Michael Lewis,  who has written books about Wall Street and more recently the  global economy.

The New York protesters, camped out in Zuccotti Park in  downtown Manhattan, have sometimes been dismissed by Wall  Street passersby or cast in the mainstream media as naive  students and mischief-makers without realistic goals.
Members of the group have vowed to stay at the park through  the winter.

The protesters have complained of a heavy-handed police response to the protests. Police say they gave protesters ample  warning that their march across the Brooklyn Bridge was illegal  before they started making arrests.

Attorneys for a nonprofit advocacy group called the  Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a federal lawsuit  against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, police and other officials  charging the constitutional rights of the demonstrators  arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge had been violated.
The suit said New York had “engaged in a premeditated,  planned, scripted, and calculated effort to sweep the streets  of protesters and disrupt a growing protest movement.”

The protests appeared to be gaining steam across the  nation. In Los Angeles, protesters camped out in front of City  Hall. They too have pitched a tent city, and organizers say  they will be there for the foreseeable future.

In Boston, protesters have set up a make-shift camp in the city’s financial district, with a few dozen tents pitched  across from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston building.  Protesters have been well behaved, Boston police said.

“Occupy Wall Street has captured everyone’s imagination,”  said protester Larry Hales in New York.
“One criticism of us has been that our demands are not  clear, but I think for most people, the message of why Wall  Street is the target is very clear,” he said. “It’s the banking  capital of the world.”

Protests have also popped up in Chicago, where around 50  protesters have gathered at the heart of the financial district  around lunchtime every day, banging drums and holding signs.

In St. Louis, about two dozen people carrying signs  protested on Tuesday at a downtown federal building, about four  blocks from the city’s landmark Arch.
“People are starting to notice that this movement is not  just a flash mob,” said Victoria Sobel, 21, an art student who  has been with Occupy Wall Street since it began in September.

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