NEW YORK (Reuters) - About 10 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were arrested in New York City on Wednesday during protests that failed to pull in big crowds or draw much attention on what organizers had hoped would be a nationwide day of revival for the movement.
A similar protest in wet and cold weather in Portland, Oregon, drew a crowd organizers said numbered about 500 people and saw at least seven arrests.
The coast to coast demonstrations were aimed at revving up the movement known as “Occupy,” which has been relatively quiet in the months since police cleared encampments in New York, Oakland and other major cities.
In New York, as rain clouds gathered overhead, several dozen police officers on motorcycles escorted a group of about 50 protesters that marched from a park outside the New York Public Library to the world headquarters of Pfizer Inc and back. They denounced Pfizer as a corporation that lobbies for legislation to create tax breaks and other benefits for large businesses.
“Shame on Pfizer! You’re a bunch of liars!” chanted the protesters as they milled around barricades in front of Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker.
Afterward, Pfizer acknowledged involvement with legislative organizations but said in a statement that its aim was strictly to “advance the health of all Americans.”
Most of the roughly 10 protesters taken into custody in New York were people with sleeping bags arrested overnight in Zuccotti Park, birthplace of the Occupy movement and strictly off-limits for camping since police evicted protesters from their tent city there in November, a police spokesman said.
A rallying cry of the movement has been that 1 percent of the population has too much of the nation’s wealth and the remaining 99 percent is disadvantaged.
Hoisting a sign reading “I can’t afford to get sick” was Jennifer Roberts, 44, a painter who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“I’ve lived the bulk of my adult working life without insurance,” Roberts said. “I feel it’s very important to pursue a single payer system for this country.”
Across the country in Portland, hundreds of protesters snaked through the city’s downtown and stopped at a number of businesses to shout slogans or sing.
Two protesters were arrested for damaging a van along the route, and another five demonstrators were arrested later in the day for trespassing, said Portland police spokesman Lieutenant Robert King.
Overnight, windows were shattered at two banks and a Starbucks coffee shop, according to the Portland Police Bureau. No arrests have been made yet in those cases, King said.
Meanwhile, in the suburban community of Mira Loma about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, a crowd of about 200 demonstrators massed outside a Wal-Mart Stores Inc distribution center.
Demonstrators, who said they opposed the company’s labor policies and carried signs such as “Stop the War on Workers” and “People Before Profits,” found the distribution center was closed. Day-to-day operations at the center are run by a company that contracts with Wal-Mart.
“We expect our vendors to meet the needs of our businesses and it’s their call how to manage the workload and the scheduling and the operations,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman.
Additional reporting by Ransdell Pierson, Teresa Carson and Alex Gallardo; Editing By Alex Dobuzinskis and Tim Gaynor