Police in New York said that 92 people had been arrested by early yesterday after Saturday’s chaotic invasion of Times Square by anti-Wall Street protestors that brought puzzled if not terrified tourists face to face with the movement that started in Manhattan and has now spread to cities around the globe.
If the epicentre of the protests in Manhattan has remained the postage stamp-sized Zuccotti Park at its southern tip, on Saturday it fanned northwards reaching a jarring crescendo at dusk as more than a thousand protestors surged into Times Square urging onlookers and tourists, some preparing to watch Broadway shows, to join the marchers shouting, “You are the 99 per cent”.
Almost 45 people were handcuffed in and around Times Square itself as police tried to isolate protestors behind steel barricades as they chanted angry slogans, including “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out”. Another 24 were arrested after a group splintered off from the march northwards through Manhattan and attempted to occupy a branch of Citbank in the West village, banging drums and blowing horns.
While one group of tourists passing through Times Square on an open-top bus pumped their fists in support of the protestors others caught in the mêlée below expressed exasperation. “It’s horrible what they’re doing,” Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told the Associated Press as she made her way to a Broadway theatre to watch a musical. “These people need to go get job.”
Herman Cain, the pizza mogul who is leading some polls for the Republican presidential nomination, called the New York protestors “hypocrites” who would “rather have a handout than work”. In an opinion column, he added: “It’s ironic that protesters who have uniformly attacked the rich and corporate CEOs happen to sport iPods, iPhones and other innovative technological tools that entrepreneurs have worked so hard to invent, build and distribute to consumers.”
Scores of cities in the US and in Europe saw similar protest marches in a global ‘day of rage’ on Saturday. Most of those in Europe remained peaceful with the exception of Rome where violence broke out when masked ‘Black Bloc’ protesters torched cars, attacked banks and hurled rocks at police officers.
There were 70 injuries and 12 arrests and even pitched battles between peaceful demonstrators and the masked, violent faction, with the pacifists evidently furious at seeing their protest hijacked. They even dragged three masked Black Block rioter to the police and handed them over.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the violent demonstrators “must be condemned by everyone without reservation”.
Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, said: “There was a million [euros] in damages to public property and you have to factor in damage to private property too,” as he visited the area around St John Lateran square devastated by Saturday’s violence. “We have to act with appropriate toughness against these animals.”
But the Italian press and some opposition politicians demanded to know how only 12 arrests were made after such shocking and prolonged violence. Some commentators said the police intervention was too little and too late.
Yesterday a group of peaceful protesters gathered by the 18th-century church of Santi Marcellino and Pietro in central Rome, which was also attacked by Black Block thugs. “We are the real indignant ones,” one said. “They stole our day”.