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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS: It was a chaotic scene in Lower Manhattan Saturday as police arrested about 80 protesters taking part in a rally and march. The demonstration was part of the protest encampment in New York’s financial district known as Occupy Wall Street that started on September 17. Among their list of demands, protesters are calling for an end to corporate influence over politics, an end to imperialist American foreign policy, and a more accountable political system. They say they represent the majority of Americans, whose interests are not being served by the country’s economic and political system. The New York Police Department’s handling of the arrests has come under fire as a number of videos emerge showing officers using heavy-handed tactics. Police used large orange nets to trap protesters, who were then pepper sprayed. Among them was 25-year-old Chelsea Elliot, who described the incident minutes after it happened.

CHELSEA ELLIOT, DEMONSTRATOR, OCCUPY WALL STREET: And then I turn around and I see this girl having her face slammed on the sidewalk–blood. And I scream, and I scream, why are they doing this. And I look at the cop, and then I look back and there’s a cop with mace, and he just squirts, like, boom, tsh-tsh-tsh, like, all of us in the face, including–like, got–some of it got on the cop that I was talking to. And I just fell to the ground and started sobbing.

NOOR: Protesters captured some of the attacks on video, including the arrest of 21-year-old Bronx resident Hero Vincent. Vincent, who was released Sunday, said police attacked him when he tried to calm the crowd and organize people to leave.

HERO VINCENT, DEMONSTRATOR, OCCUPY WALL STREET: That’s when the police just charged at me with his fist and just started, you know, swinging at me. Another police man pushed me, and I’m backing up. And as I’m backing up, I hit the barricade, and then they come at–I look at them, and they come at me. I go over, and then four policemen just started, you know, beating on me, yelling at me, "Stop resisting arrest!" while I’m just laying there, I’m not fighting back. They kicked me in my stomach, knocked the breath out of me, hit me with their baton. They put their knees into my face–not even my head, into my face, into the ground, and just laughing.

NOOR: While other protesters were charged with blocking traffic and resisting arrest, Vincent faces the more serious charge of assaulting a police officer. But he says he’s confident that the numerous videos of the incident will exonerate him, and he’s determined to continue the fight against this country’s economic policies.

VINCENT: If there’s anything called the epitome of a struggle, me and my family lived it. We were foreclosed on. My father had trouble finding a job, still hasn’t found one. I had trouble finding a job, still haven’t found one. My sister’s in college. Her tuition is doubling. They’re trying to fight for her financial aid. We struggle with food. I’ve even slept on a bench a few nights before this occasion, you know.

NOOR: Despite this latest round of arrests, the protest encampment now enters its 10th day at the privately owned Zuccotti Park, which protesters are calling Liberty Plaza. Demonstrators use the space for nightly meetings of the popular committee known as the General Assembly. After a week of deliberations, participants have now agreed on a number of basic demands, including an end to policies that result in the concentration of wealth and unlimited influence of money in politics, and the creation of a participatory economic and political system that opposes discrimination and racism and promotes environmental justice. Twenty-three-year-old community organizer Michael Strom says he hopes these demands can be a catalyst for a movement that can challenge corporate domination.

MICHAEL STROM, DEMONSTRATOR, OCCUPY WALL STREET: So we put together these demands to be accessible and encompass all of these different forms of suffering and really bring people together so that we can begin to articulate exactly what strategies and processes we will use to struggle for these demands.

NOOR: Protesters vow to continue the Occupy Wall Street demonstration until these demands are met. This is Jaisal Noor, reporting for The Real News Network from New York.

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