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De Blasio: 'Flood Wall Street' Protesters Were Exercising First Amendment Rights

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday defended a decision by the NYPD not to clear the streets during the "Flood Wall Street" climate change protest the day before.

Police allowed protesters to sit in the street and block traffic for several hours Tuesday. Arrests only occurred after some protesters tried to knock down metal barriers that kept Wall Street closed off.

De Blasio said he thought the NYPD "did a fantastic job allowing protesters to make their point, but handled the situation with a lot of flexibility and restraint.

He added, "I think the First Amendment is a little more important than traffic."

De Blasio added that since New York is an international city and home to the United Nations, it has a ``responsibility'' to allow peaceful protests.

The protest Monday came one day after a huge climate march in Midtown.

#FloodWallStreet protesters on Monday gathered in Battery Park and marched to the Financial District in Lower Manhattan.

Hundreds of officers were on the scene as thousands of people rallied. The sit-in turned into a march up Broadway just before 4 p.m., WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

Protesters saw that Wall Street was barricaded off by the police and tried to ram the barricades with the front lines of their march. Some of the protesters tried to push past the barricades and go on marching down Wall Street, 1010 WINS' Al Jones reported.

Officers were seen on video using pepper spray as they tried to control the crwod, CBS 2's Alice Gainer reported.

Video also showed officers handcuffing protesters, and one clip appeared to show a man running off as police came after him while protesters chanted, "Let him go."

More than 100 people were arrested – three of whom were in wheelchairs, police said.

The officers were handcuffed with plastic ties and taken to One Police Plaza to be booked on disorderly conduct charges for blocking the street and refusing to move and obey police orders, 1010 WINS' Roger Stern reported.

All were to be given Criminal Court summonses -- including those in wheelchairs -- for a return date to court, police said.

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