NEW YORK — Dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on New Year’s Eve as they tore down barricades surrounding New York City’s Zuccotti Park, the former home of their encampment that was dismantled several weeks ago.
About 500 protesters gathered in the park Saturday evening, where they rang in the new year with songs and their now-familiar chant of “We are the 99 percent.”
About 11 p.m., after a relatively quiet evening, some protesters began to tear down the barricades that have surrounded the park since New York police officers evicted Occupy Wall Street members on Nov. 15, protesters said Sunday. Police then moved in.
“They (police) got very aggressive and started pushing people and pepper-spraying people,” protester Jason Amadi, 27, of San Jose, Calif., said Sunday. “I got pepper-sprayed in the face.”
The protesters said they worked at sections of the park in teams of twos and threes, retreating only when police converged and pulled the barricades back.
“People were collecting all the barricades and making kind of a big heap of them in the middle of the park,” said protester Melanie Butler, 30, of Brooklyn. “And we were standing on it with our Occupy Wall Street banner.”
The New York Police Department said 68 people were arrested, and at least one person was accused of assaulting a police officer, who suffered cuts on one hand. Other charges included trespassing, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.
Police were still processing the arrests Sunday morning, but some protesters had been released. Police provided no other details on the confrontation.
After the arrests, the crowd began to thin out. A smaller group of about 100 people marched in a circle near the park and then most of them left, Amadi said.
“Many of us there felt that it was a symbol of the new year, of what was to come,” he said. “People protesting peacefully, but without fear.”