Dozens arrested in Ariz. anti-Wall St. protests

Anti-Wall Street protesters gathered Saturday in Phoenix at Cesar Chavez Plaza, Oct. 15, 2011.

PHOENIX - Police moved into a crowd of protesters in Phoenix around midnight Saturday and arrested several people following an anti-Wall Street rally. Authorities said there also were arrests in Tucson.

Reporters and protesters saw an estimated 40 people detained at Margaret T. Hance Park just north of downtown Phoenix. The newspaper Downtown Devil also put the arrest figure at about 40.

Officers there declined to comment, and official department spokesmen did not immediately return calls.

The arrests came hours after anti-Wall Street protesters gathered in Phoenix and Tucson as part of a series of protests across the country against financial institutions.

In Tucson, about 100 miles southeast of Phoenix, some protesters were arrested after they remained in Military Plaza Park after the 10:30 p.m. closing time, police spokesman Matt Ronstadt said.

He did not provide a number, but said those arrested were issued citations and released.

The Tucson rally began around noon and drew several hundred people.

About 1,000 people attended the Occupy Phoenix event that began with an afternoon gathering at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

By 5 p.m., many protesters had marched to Margaret T. Hance Park and their numbers continued to dwindle throughout the evening.

After police repeatedly ordered protesters to leave, a line of about 100 helmeted officers, many carrying batons, formed around 11 p.m. PDT.

The arrests began around midnight after a group of demonstrators sat on the ground, refusing to move. Police slowly escorted them away one-by-one.

The arrests appeared peaceful and there were no signs of violence between the officers and a crowd of less than 100 people still milling about the park, which had officially closed by late evening.

Protester Davin Wright, 31, described the scene as generally peaceful, but he said police acted roughly during some of the initial arrests.

"Anyone who thought they were going to be crunching skulls; it's not going to happen," he said.

Later, a dozens of people remaining inside the park withdrew to the street as the line of officers slowly walked toward them.

The Downtown Devil reported that police left the park about 1:30 a.m.

Groups have been turning out across the country to express anger over costly health care and rising unemployment, and to cast blame on corporate interests for the economic pain they say all but the wealthiest Americans have endured since the financial meltdown.

The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

Saturday's rally in Phoenix followed a march Friday through the downtown area. Several hundred people chanted anti-bank slogans and waved placards attacking Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, big business and the wealthy — all under the watchful eye of police.

Rally participants vented a litany of frustrations focused on jobs, foreclosures, the rich-poor divide and corporate political influence.

Brenda Horwoth, 65, of Tempe, said she was laid off more than a year ago and hoped the movement would put pressure on banks to halt foreclosures, compel wealthy Americans to pay more taxes, and persuade businesses to boost hiring.

She was joined by her daughter, Rhonda Buhr, a 44-year-old casino blackjack dealer from Maricopa, who voiced support for livable-wage policies.

"I'm tired of CEOs making millions or billions while everyday workers are earning the minimum wage," Buhr told The Arizona Republic.

In Tucson, police said they had open lines of communication with the protest organizers and informed them that city ordinances required them to have permits and reservations, and overnight camping wasn't allowed without a permit.

Craig Barber, one of the spokesmen for Occupy Tucson, said the group was committed to a peaceful protest. He said if anyone got out of hand at the protests, they would ask them to leave.

"We're trying to do everything and anything we can to alleviate the concerns of the city and the police department," Barber told KOLD-TV.