Scores of protesters were arrested in Manhattan Saturday as a march against social inequality turned violent.
Hundreds of people carrying banners and chanting “shame, shame” walked between Zuccotti Park, near Wall St., and Union Square calling for changes to a financial system they say unjustly benefits the rich and harms the poor.
At least 80 people were carted away in police vehicles and up to five were hit with pepper spray near 12th St. and Fifth Ave., where tensions became especially high, police and organizers said.
The National Lawyer’s Guild, which is providing legal assistance to the protesters, put the number of arrests at 100.
Witnesses said they saw three stunned women collapse on the ground screaming after they were sprayed in the face.
A video posted on YouTube and NYDailyNews.com shows uniformed officers had corralled the women using orange nets when two supervisors made a beeline for the women, and at least one suddenly sprayed the women before turning and quickly walking away.
Footage of other police altercations also circulated online, but it was unclear what caused the dramatic mood shift in an otherwise peaceful demonstration.
“I saw a girl get slammed on the ground. I turned around and started screaming,” said Chelsea Elliott, 25, from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, who said she was sprayed. “I turned around and a cop was coming … we were on the sidewalk and we weren’t doing anything illegal.”
Police said 80 protesters were arrested or ticketed at multiple locations for disorderly conduct, blocking traffic and failure to obey a lawful order but the number could rise.