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'Occupy' protesters clash with NY traders, police

An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is arrested by New York City Police during what protest organizers called a "Day of Action" in New York Nov. 17, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar
The online news portal of TV5

NEW YORK - Occupy Wall Street activists clashed Thursday with workers and police outside the New York Stock Exchange on the two-month anniversary of the movement's vocal anti-capitalist campaign.

As hundreds linked hands to block access to the NYSE building, one man in a blue business suit wrestled with a protester in a cowboy hat, one of several violent scuffles.

More than 50 people were arrested, an Agence France-Presse correspondent saw, but New York police would only say there had been "many" arrests.

Chanting "Wall Street's closed!" "We are the 99 percent" and "Whose street? Our street!" about 1,000 demonstrators engaged in a tense face-off with hundreds of police, including many on horseback outside the iconic exchange.

The protests were part of a "Global Day of Action" announced by the website, with demonstrations across the United States combined with protests in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Poland and Spain.

In London, protesters were waiting nervously as a deadline to leave their camp outside St Paul's Cathedral by 1800 GMT Thursday neared.

And at least 15,000 protesters also demonstrated in Athens on Thursday against austerity measures demanded by Greece's new unity government.

The level of participation in the rallies could provide a clear indication of Occupy Wall Street's clout exactly two months since the movement sprang up to denounce big corporate business and the world's wealthiest "one percent."

The day of protest also came after New York police earlier this week cleared out the cradle of the movement, a tent camp erected in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park on September 17.

Security forces have also torn down protest camps in several US cities including Oakland, Portland and Dallas, and the Occupy movement finds itself with less space to occupy and its future in doubt.

In New York, protesters vowed to avenge their eviction by marching on the stock exchange, then rallying on the city's subway and major bridges.

While the stock market opened on time at 9:30 a.m. (1430 GMT), protesters managed a 45-minute blockade outside the NYSE. Police eventually intervened to break through, establishing a corridor to escort traders and workers.

Amid chaotic scenes, police then moved in to clear the street, and ensuing clashes sent police and protesters clattering to the ground. One man was repeatedly clubbed with a police baton, while several protesters were handcuffed and dragged into police trucks.

Several groups split up and moved in different directions, deploying to different choke points around the city, blocking the area until police could move in and clear it.

Up to 2,000 people re-grouped in Zuccotti Park in a high-energy atmosphere, drumming and clapping, while police encircled the area.

"We need to show we are bigger than Zuccotti Park, that we are resilient, that we refuse to submit to brutal police tactics," said Jessica Lingel, 28, a librarian from New Jersey.

The New York protesters were urged to meet at underground rail hubs "and take our own stories to the trains." A rally on a major square near police headquarters and various courthouses was scheduled for later, followed by a march across bridges, likely meaning the nearby Brooklyn Bridge.

By mid-morning the group was already claiming victory, and at least one exasperated New York cop seemed to agree.

"They've blocked everything off. This is what happens when you kick them out of the park: you stir a hornet's nest," said the officer who would not provide his name.

Authorities "should have left them in the park. They wanted to disrupt Wall Street, and they've done it."

According to the activist group MoveOn, some 463 protests were planned across the United States Thursday in what organizers were calling the "We are the 99%" national day of action.

But in an opinion survey released Wednesday, Public Policy Polling said it appeared the American public is moving against the Occupy movement, with 45 percent of respondents opposing its goals versus 33 percent in favor.

"That now makes the movement less popular that its right-wing counterpart, the Tea Party," which enjoyed 42 percent support, the North Carolina-based polling institute said.

It was not immediately clear how many people were rallying in other US and foreign cities that have embraced the OWS cause, including places such as Atlanta, Detroit, Portland and the capital, Washington.