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‘Occupy’ protesters hope to shut down Wall Street with street carnival

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Protesters hope to shut down Wall Street on Thursday by holding a street carnival to mark the two-month anniversary of their campaign against economic inequality.

Protest organizers acknowledged that the “day of action” they have planned could be the group’s most provocative most yet, and could lead to mass arrests and further strain relations with city authorities.

“I think we’re certainly going into this with our eyes wide open, but (the march is) to provoke ideas and discussion, not to provoke any violent reactions,” said Occupy Wall Street spokesman Ed Needham.

“I think it is very difficult to do a day of action and not expect some sort of reaction from the (authorities),” he said.

The protesters plan to march to Wall Street from their camp headquarters in a park two blocks away and then spread out across the city’s subway system to tell the stories of disenfranchised Americans. They will reconvene later on Thursday for a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Last month, more than 700 people were arrested during a similar march across the bridge, after some protesters sat on the pedestrian walkway and refused to move, while others strayed into car lanes.

“We will shut down Wall Street,” a post on the movement’s Facebook page said. “We will ring the People’s Bell, and initiate a street carnival in which we rebuild and celebrate the neighborhoods that the Wall Street economy has destroyed.”

The group promises a “a block party the 1 percent will never forget.”

A spokesman for the stock exchange declined to comment. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office and the New York Police Department did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Protesters set up camp in Zuccotti park in New York City’s financial district on September 17 to protest a financial system they believe mostly benefits corporations and the wealthy.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has sparked similar protests against economic inequality across the country, and in some cases have led to violent clashes with police.

Police on Monday moved into an anti-Wall Street protester encampment in Oakland, California, clearing out occupants and taking down tents. And police confronted an estimated 1,000 anti-corporate protesters in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday.

In recent weeks, New York protesters have conducted peaceful marches along city sidewalks for a variety of causes ranging from veterans rights and alleged police brutality to big bank greed and labor union issues.

At times the police presence has outnumbered the protesters and city officials have shown their patience is wearing thin with the encamped protest. But Thursday’s march could attract up to 10,000 people, protest spokesman Needham said.

(Editing by Basil Katz and Cynthia Osterman)

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