WASHINGTON – More than five dozen protesters upset about what they call corporate greed and the excessive influence of money in politics were arrested Wednesday after shutting down K Street, home to many of the city's influential lobbying firms, in a mass demonstration that snarled mid-day traffic in the nation's capital.
The arrests came as demonstrators from across the country converged on K Street for a march that included participants from Occupy Wall Street encampments as well as other groups — including unions — sympathetic to their message about income inequality. D.C. police had made 62 arrests by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, said spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump. Sixty-one of the arrests were for obstructing a public highway and an additional arrest was made for a misdemeanor assault on a police officer.
A group of about three dozen protesters clad in rain gear and protective covering were carried into police vans after lying down in the middle of a busy intersection and ignoring repeated orders to move. Their supporters on the sidewalk chanted, "This is what democracy looks like!" and "We are the 99 percent" and then jeered and yelled at officers as they began arresting demonstrators.
Earlier, 11 protesters affiliated with the American Dream Movement — which advocates for the working-class — were separately arrested and charged with obstructing a public highway.
Later Wednesday, about a dozen more were arrested at the Supreme Court.
The arrests appeared to be the most since Occupy DC took root earlier this fall at McPherson Square, just blocks from the White House. The group's relationship with police has been generally peaceful, though U.S. Park Police officers on Sunday arrested 31 protesters who refused to dismantle and get down from an unfinished wooden structure they had built in the park.
The march was diffuse and spread across blocks, making it difficult to gauge the size of the crowd. But organizers said they expected several thousand people in Washington this week for days of activism, including sit-ins Tuesday at congressional offices and a vigil for the jobless on Thursday. One person was arrested at Tuesday's sit-ins for unlawful entry.
The demonstration Wednesday created a commuting headache downtown, as police shut down neighboring streets and cars lined up waiting for protesters to pass. Demonstrators set up tents on K Street NW near McPherson Square, the site of the Occupy DC encampment. Some buildings along K Street took precautions by adding extra security guards amid warnings that the protesters planned to enter certain firms and companies.
A group of protesters from Pennsylvania chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" and "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" assembled briefly but peacefully Wednesday outside a downtown Wells Fargo location. Two men in suits who said they worked for a nearby bank watched the procession down K Street. They demurred when one of the demonstrators asked their opinions on the protesters' cause.
One demonstrator, Teresa Law, 50, of Springfield, Ohio, said she came to protest against corporate America and because jobs that the government promised would be created have not been created.
"I've nothing against the rich. I've something against a greedy man," Law said. She added, "Corporate America has taken over the government."
Michelle Boyle, 41, a nurse from Pittsburgh, said she came with two busloads of demonstrators. She said her mother-in-law had lost her small-business job and her health insurance, and that she died soon after. She said it was unfair that executives at companies that have laid off workers have received tax breaks and bonuses.
"My husband was raised by his mother, I was raised by my parents, to believe in a can-do America," she said. Boyle added, "I have a lot of hope in America and I have a lot of hope and faith — I have to — for my daughters and their future."
Associated Press writer Brett Zongker contributed to this report.
Eric Tucker can be reached at http://twitter.com/etuckerAP
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