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US Protesters Build Bridges as Unions Add Their Support

by Lesley Clark, Gianna Palmer, Tribune Media, London

NEW YORK: The Occupy Wall Street movement, looking to show staying power after losing ground in various cities, has been boosted by the countrywide support of labour and progressive groups in what union organisers said was the most visible sign that they were working with the activists to press for change.

In New York, where the movement began and where protesters have been struggling to decide their next move after police removed them from Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, thousands took to the streets, protesting at the New York Stock Exchange, in the subways and along the Brooklyn Bridge.

''Whose streets? Our streets,'' they chanted as they marched.
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With police poised to disperse the Occupy encampments in several cities and polls suggesting public enthusiasm was waning, the movement sought to show its force on Thursday with mass protests across the country.

The protests in New York City, just two days after police moved in to break up the camp, led to at least 175 arrests and injuries to several police officers.

Unions that have already offered legal help, food and shower facilities in some areas co-ordinated events in more than a dozen cities on Thursday as Occupy activists called on big banks to pay to boost the slumping economy.

In Washington protesters were joined by union and MoveOn.org liberal activists as they strolled from an encampment they have inhabited for weeks near the central business district to the Key Bridge in Georgetown.

In many cities protesters marched on bridges as a backdrop to mirror Barack Obama's call for Congress to boost the economy by spending money on public projects.

The Washington protesters chose Key Bridge because that was where the President had appeared this month to press Congress to pass his $US447 billion jobs package, which calls for spending billions on road and bridge repair.

''This is our way to join with the occupiers, the rest of the labour movement, community allies, to declare a state of economic emergency in this country,'' said the president of the Service Employees International Union, Mary Kay Henry.

''The confluence of building this jobs movement with what the Occupy movement is doing is a huge bonus to both efforts.''

Like-minded supporters took to the streets in other cities.

In Los Angeles about 500 marched between the Bank of America tower and Wells Fargo Plaza, chanting, ''Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!'' More than two dozen people were arrested.

Police arrested 21 demonstrators in Las Vegas. Twenty were led away in plastic handcuffs in Portland, Oregon, for sitting on a bridge.

At least a dozen were arrested in St Louis after they sat cross-legged and locked arms in an attempt to block a bridge over the Mississippi River.

Protesters said their anger was directed towards specific groups such as executives from bailed out banks.

Van Jones, a former adviser to Mr Obama who now runs the left-wing campaign group Rebuild the Dream, said: ''We don't mind winners - we just don't like cheaters.''

Some in New York pledged to ''retake'' Zuccotti Park, which was cleared in a 1am raid on Tuesday, but new rules prevent those choosing to return bringing tents or even lying down.

Tribune Media; Telegraph, London; Associated Press
 

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