Dozens arrested at World Economic Forum protests
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Three dozen people were arrested Saturday during protests at the World Economic Forum in midtown Manhattan, including 27 demonstrators from a crowd that tossed plastic shields at police officers, injuring three of them, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, Kelly said.
Most of the arrests came during an incident Saturday afternoon at the intersection of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue when police moved in to disperse a crowd carrying plastic shields emblazoned with the slogan, "No WEF."
Despite the arrests, the level of violence here has been minor compared to that seen in recent years at other gatherings of international trade and economic groups.
About 2,000 protesters -- the largest crowd in more than two days -- gathered peacefully Saturday under the watchful eyes of police near the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where the forum is being held.
Police in riot gear were alert all day to any signs of trouble among the rowdy demonstrations that stretched for four blocks along Park Avenue.
As demonstrators from Columbus Circle joined the protesters near the hotel late in the afternoon, police placed netting over some of their vans to prevent glass from dispersing in case windows were broken.
The second group of protesters included members of the coalition Another World Is Possible.
The annual conference, which began Thursday and ends Monday, is being held in New York this year instead of its regular venue of Davos, Switzerland, as a gesture of solidarity with the city hardest hit in the September 11 attacks. It comes during a global economic downturn.
Nearly 2,700 business, political and religious leaders from 106 countries are attending the forum. Rain kept most demonstrators away the first two days.
Previous forums have led to major shifts in global trade policies, resulting in such changes as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay round of trade talks that led to creation of the World Trade Organization.
Protesters at this event and similar economic talks believe moves toward a global economy leave poorer nations behind, allowing large corporations to take advantage of their workers by paying them lower wages.
Protesters chanted, "This is what democracy looks like," and, "The forum, they fear us, but only if they hear us," as some beat drums and waved signs reading, "End Globalization Now," "U.S. Out of Afghanistan," "Shut down capitalism" and "People before Profits."
Many of the protesters belong to the group A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).
One U.S. flag-draped protester from New York City said Saturday she attends many demonstrations.
"I'm concerned that the world is increasingly run by a small number of very wealthy people who have no regard for working people. They exploit workers and they destroy the planet. I'm very upset that these people profit from war and manufacturing weapons," she said.
"We live in a country where 6 percent of the population consumes half the world's resources while a billion people on this planet starve," she said "Then people are horrified why anybody would be upset with us."
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said police were doing a good job of controlling the protesters.
"What you're seeing here today is what the NYPD does best -- the crowd control. They do over 600 of these controlled events every year. They've learned from both good and bad experiences," Bratton said.
-- CNN producers Shannon Troetel, Maureen Madden and Adam Reiss contributed to this report.
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