Demonstrators back, but are uncertain of what to Occupy next

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NEW YORK — A day after police broke up a rally at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and arrested dozens, Occupy Wall Street protesters said Sunday that their movement would pick up momentum with the spring.

Activists listed issues including student debt, the environment and the November elections as priorities going forward. But some observers who watched workers hose down the now-barricaded park that was Occupy’s home wondered whether a movement so diffuse could accomplish anything.

“I’m really grateful to be part of a generation that wants change, ‘cause we should all want change,” said Jennifer Campbell, a graduate student in documentary filmmaking at Hofstra University. “But I’m not sure what that change is, or if they know what that change is.”

The crackdown at Zuccotti happened late Saturday after hundreds of activists had gathered to mark the sixth-month birthday of the movement.

“There was a lot of silliness and just kind of singing and dancing and really very jovial,” said Chris Casuccio, who works for a nonprofit organization. “We had some banners up. There was one tarp that was up, but it was tiny. It could fit like five people under it.”

But New York Police Detective Brian Sessa said the tipping point came when the protesters started breaking the park rules.

“They set up tents. They had sleeping bags,” he said. Electrical boxes also were tampered with, and there was evidence of graffiti.

Detective Sessa said Brookfield Properties, the park owner, sent in security to advise the protesters to stop pitching tents and to leave the park. The protesters, in turn, became agitated with them. The company then asked the police to help them clear out the park, the detective said.

“Most of the people, they left the park,” he said. “People who refused to leave and were staying were arrested.”

Police said 73 people were detained, with an unused public transit bus brought in to cart away about a dozen demonstrators in plastic handcuffs. One female under arrest had difficulty breathing and was taken away in an ambulance to be treated.

It was unclear how many were still in custody Sunday.

With the city’s attention Saturday focused on the huge St. Patrick’s Day parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally at Zuccotti drew hundreds of people. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who had given a speech at a nearby university, also made an appearance at the park, milling around with protesters.

Occupy activists said the officers moved in with little warning and beat some protesters. For hours, the demonstrators had been chanting and holding impromptu meetings in the park to celebrate the six-month mark of the movement as police mainly kept their distance.

Police said Sunday they had no information about any protesters being injured.

“They just came in, swinging batons,” said protester Sandra Nurse. She said a woman began having a seizure and another protester’s head was “smashed into a building window.”

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