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'Occupy Wall Street' rally thousands strong

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protest Photo Credit: (RJ Mickelson/amNY)

What began with a few dozen people rallying against financial institutions and policies they say favor the wealthy ballooned Wednesday into a congregation of thousands.

The size of the ever-growing protest, which flooded downtown streets, was bolstered by unions and student groups, though a precise crowd figure was not released by officials.

As has been the case in previous rallies, there were reports of police pepper-spraying and arresting protesters, but a NYPD spokesman couldn’t confirm that as of press time.

As many as 1,000 have been arrested at previous demonstrations in the last few weeks.

The rally began at Foley Square, near City Hall, and swarmed Chambers Street and Broadway, where protesters chanted, “We are the 99%,” referring to those that are not among the nation’s wealthiest. It took them hours to march just over a half-mile to Zuccotti Park, the adopted home of the protesters for more than two weeks.

“American families are fed up with being abandoned by our government,” Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen said before the parade to the park. “Wall Street got bailed out after the recession, but working families didn’t.”

Bob Andrew, a sheet metal worker from Astoria, said it helped that the protesters don’t have a simple set of demands because it allows more people with a similar message get involved.

“This is a movement, it’s not just a rally with one theme,” said Andrew, 52, as he whistled for the protesters pouring into the park by the thousands. “In a rally, you have a set of demands. This here is more of a philosophy — fighting against the greed of Wall Street.”

“It’s a simple message,” said Andrew, who said he visits the park every night after work. “We’re struggling to make ends meet.”

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