New York– Thousands of “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators fanned out across New York on Thursday in the first major showing of protest strength since authorities forcibly evicted them from their Lower Manhattan encampment two days earlier.
The group twice squared off against riot police in Zuccotti Park, while engaging in sporadic confrontations with authorities throughout the day. By Thursday evening, however, thousands of largely peaceful marchers could be seen meandering toward Foley Square in Lower Manhattan.
Demonstrators say they then plan to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, where 700 people were arrested in a similar march early last month.
“I think the numbers have increased dramatically today,” said protester Jo Robin. “Particularly after the raid, our message is being broadcast all over the world.”
Two days earlier, police swept into Zuccotti Park and forcibly evicted those who have camped out in the square for the last two months, a move ultimately upheld by a New York State Supreme Court.
At least 177 protesters were arrested during Thursday’s demonstrations, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who noted that seven police officers were also hurt during exchanges with protesters.
Five of those officers were injured when a unidentified liquid was thrown on their faces, Kelly said, who added that the officers experienced a burning sensation and required hospitalization.
It is not clear how many demonstrators have been injured during the clashes.
But CNN and CNN affiliate New York One broadcast images of the exchanges, including video of one man — whose face appeared to be covered in blood — sitting beneath police who wielded shields and batons.
Authorities, meanwhile, have constructed barricades at Zuccotti Park, in front of the New York Stock Exchange and along Fifth Avenue in an apparent attempt to keep demonstrators off the roads and on pedestrian walkways.
Their efforts, however, seemed compromised as splinter groups spilled across several city streets in their march toward Foley Square and the Brooklyn Bridge.
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the day’s protests had “caused minimal disruptions to our city,” he acknowledged that some had “deliberately pursued violence.”
A 24-year-old police officer was injured when a star-shaped glass object was thrown at him, the mayor told reporters during a visit to Bellevue Hospital Center where the officer was being treated.
Residents and workers near the New York Stock Exchange, meanwhile, were required to flash identification cards as police cordoned off the area amid concerns that demonstrators would try to disrupt trading.
Earlier in the day, protesters lifted metal barricades that ringed Zuccotti park, a former home-base for the movement, defying authorities and blocking traffic.
Similar groups gathered in cities nationwide — including Los Angeles, Portland and Dallas — in what organizers called a “mass day of action” to mark two months since the movement began.
In Lower Manhattan, CNN iReporter Alvaro Perez shot video showing protesters being pulled away by police, including one woman who appeared to be dragged by her jacket and backpack.
“I don’t want to speculate on what happened in advance of that,” police spokesman Browne said of the incident.
He said the “big picture” of how police have handled demonstrations has so far been mostly positive.
“People were able to get to work” and “protesters were able to protest,” Browne added.
Earlier, on CNN’s “American Morning,” Howard Wolfson, a New York City deputy mayor, vowed, “We’ll make sure, if people want to peacefully protest, they have the right to.” But, he added, “if people break the law, we’ll have to deal with that.”
“If they attempt to enter a building they’re not allowed in, that’s breaking the law. If they want to express their concerns about Wall Street, that’s totally fine,” he said.
On Twitter, Occupy Wall Street wrote, “Some bankers are holding signs that say, ‘get a job.’ Unemployment is at 10% and they’re smug in suits.”
Laying out the thinking behind Thursday’s plan, the group wrote, “Enough of this economy that exploits and divides us. It’s time we put an end to Wall Street’s reign of terror and begin building an economy that works for all.”
While organizers stress that the plans are nonviolent, the “mass day” comes after a demonstrator in New York was arrested for allegedly making violent threats.
Nkrumah Tinsley, 29, also was accused of “aggravated harassment” on Wednesday evening in Zuccotti Park, where the movement began, police said.
Tinsley is seen in a YouTube video making threats toward a department store. “In a few days, you’re going to see what a Molotov cocktail can do to Macy’s,” he said.
Wednesday’s arrest is Tinsley’s second in as many months. He was arrested on October 26 for assaulting a police officer.
While the city has come under fire from protesters and other critics for arrests and removing protesters from Zuccotti Park, Wolfson insisted that “we had to act” to stop illegal activity, such as drug use, and to eliminate fire hazards.
“This is a place where we honor the First Amendment,” he added.