Occupy Protesters Mobilize for Obama’s VisitBy MATT FLEGENHEIMER
10:06 p.m. | Updated More than 100 Occupy Wall Street protesters marched to a Midtown hotel on Wednesday night to protest a fund-raising event for President Obama.
Escorted by police vehicles as they helped snarl traffic across the Times Square area, beginning at Bryant Park, the group settled in front of barricades on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue, in view of the Sheraton hotel at which Mr. Obama was expected to appear by 9 p.m.
Demonstrators held signs that leveled some of the Occupy protest’s most pointed criticism to date of the president. “Obama is a corporate puppet,” one said. “War crimes must be stopped, no matter who does them,” read another, beside head shots of President George W. Bush and President Obama.
One man, wearing a mask of the president’s face and holding a cigar, carried a sign that read, “I sold out!”
Ben Campbell, 28, one of the march’s organizers, said he hoped to prove to skeptics of the protests that the demonstrators were political critics of equal opportunity.
“President Obama is coming to town solely to raise money from the richest of the rich,” Mr. Campbell said.
The 45-minute march from Bryant Park forced shoppers and theatergoers into retreat on what most likely would have been a difficult night to find sidewalk space anyway. At one point, two pedestrians tried to move through the crowd head-on but quickly reconsidered, breaking into a jog in the other direction. “You better not go that way,” one protester told them moments earlier. “You’re going to hit democracy.”
Officers, on foot and on motorcycles, followed the protesters with each step, trying — with occasional success — to keep marchers off the road. Many protesters chafed at the sight of barricaded pens near the hotel, but a majority decided to stay, given how close they were to their destination. Shortly before 9 p.m., as the police cut off traffic and began making final preparations for the president’s arrival, officers informed demonstrators that the area had been designated a “frozen zone” until the president’s departure: They were not allowed to leave their enclosure, bound by three lines of barricades and a Chase bank. Some protesters tried to break through, but were swiftly rebuffed by officers, who shoved them back to their initial perches.
Before the trek began around 6:45 p.m., one officer appeared to foretell a difficult evening. “This is going to be fun,” he said to a colleague, dropping his head. “I already tore my A.C.L. on this job.”