- Associated Press - Sunday, March 18, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of police officers cleared the park where the Occupy movement was born six months ago and made several arrests after hundreds of protesters returned in an anniversary observance and defiantly resisted calls to clear out.

Some demonstrators locked arms and sat down in the middle of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street after police announced on a bullhorn at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday that the park was closed. Officers then poured into the park, forcing most of the crowd out and surrounding a small group that stayed behind. Police formed a human ring around the park to keep protesters out.

Police said 73 people were detained, but it was unclear how many were still in custody Sunday. An unused public transit bus was 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.

Protester Chris Casuccio on Sunday said that police gave demonstrators little warning before kicking them out of the park and that officers beat several of them during the arrests.

Police said they had no information about whether protesters were beaten.

For hours Saturday, the demonstrators chanted and held impromptu meetings in the park to celebrate the anniversary of the movement that has brought attention to economic inequality, as police mainly kept their distance.

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,” Detective Sessa said. “People who refused to leave and were staying were arrested.”

Many protesters shouted, and officers took out their batons after a demonstrator threw a glass bottle at the bus that police were using to detain protesters.

Sandra Nurse, a member of Occupy’s direct action working group, said police treated demonstrators roughly and made arbitrary arrests. She disputed the police assertion that demonstrators had broken park rules by putting up tents or getting out sleeping bags.

“I didn’t see any sleeping bags,” she said. “There was a banner hung between two trees and a tarp thrown over it … It wasn’t a tent. It was an erect thing, if that’s what you want to call it.”

She said they had reports of about 25 demonstrators arrested in the police sweep.

Earlier in the day, with the city’s attention focused on the huge St. Patrick’s Day parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally at Zuccotti drew hundreds of people.

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