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Occupiers clash with police in New York; 6 arrested

By Dan Verello, CNN
updated 4:07 PM EDT, Wed March 21, 2012
Protesters congregate in Union Square in New York City on Wednesday after 74 were arrested Saturday at Zuccotti Park.
Protesters congregate in Union Square in New York City on Wednesday after 74 were arrested Saturday at Zuccotti Park.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The latest arrests come after 74 people were arrested over the weekend
  • The Occupy Wall Street movement began six months ago in Zucotti Park
  • One witness says there were about 300 protesters in Union Square Park

New York (CNN) -- Six protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement were arrested early Wednesday in New York's Union Square Park during a confrontation with police, authorities said.

The demonstrators were arrested after they were asked to vacate the lower Manhattan park at midnight, according to New York Police Department spokesman Detective Marc Nell.

"Protesters were asked to leave because of sanitary reasons. We had people coming in to clean the park. Arrests were made because the protesters were blocking pedestrian traffic," Nell said.

There were six charges of disorderly conduct, four charges of obstructing government administration, one charge of resisting arrest and one charge of violation of local law, the spokesman said.

Anthony Melendez, a Brooklyn resident and former priest who said he was present during the confrontation, told CNN there were roughly 300 protesters in the park by the time police started asking people to leave. Police did not confirm the number of protesters present.

The occupiers were unsure as to what laws they were breaking before police ordered them to leave, according to Melendez.

"There were several of us going around sweeping, making sure everything was neat. We even made sure to keep in small groups and maintain space between each other," he said.

Wednesday's arrests follow the arrest Saturday night of 74 demonstrators after an attempt to reclaim Zuccotti Park to mark the six-month anniversary of the Occupy movement. The Manhattan district attorney's office told CNN Sunday that the arrests were made as police forced the protesters out of the park, the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street.

Protesters were allowed to return to Union Square Park at 6 a.m. Wednesday. Since the arrests over the weekend, Melendez said there has been a continuous presence at Union Square.

"The occupation at Union Square is considered the first 24-hour occupation since our November 15th eviction from Zuccotti Park," he said.

The protests began September 17, with participants decrying income inequality, corporate greed and the influence of the top 1% of Americans. They soon drew the support of organized labor, while similar spinoff movements sprang up in numerous U.S. cities and overseas.

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