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LIVE UPDATES: Occupy Wall Street Gains International Support, Looks To Spread To Washington Square Park

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LIVE UPDATES OCCUPY WALL STREET
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Occupy Wall Street, a cause that began as a small band of protesters in Zuccotti Park, has gained international recognition with protests spreading to London and an Egyptian activist addressing the crowd in New York Saturday.

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Egyptian activist, Mohammed Ezzeldin, told supporters gathered at a General Assembly meeting in Washington Square Park Saturday that he sees a connection between Occupy Wall Street and the spring protests against Hosni Mubarak.

"I am coming from there -- from the Arab Spring. From the Arab Spring to the fall of Wall Street," Ezzeldin said, his voice echoed by the crowd of thousands, HuffPost's Matt Sledge reports. "From Liberation Square to Washington Square, to the fall of Wall Street and market domination, and capitalist domination."

Since starting Sept. 17, Occupy Wall Street has gained endorsements from major unions and progressive leaders as well as prominent politicians. The group is growing so quickly that protesters marched to Washington Square Park Saturday to discuss expanding to other sites. It has survived police crackdowns in Seattle and mass arrests in New York. Within a few short weeks, it has come to resemble a movement, with more than 900 meetups in 900 cities across the country. 'Occupiers' have erected tent cities in town squares and held rallies in front of city halls.

It's unclear just where all these general assembly meetings, Twitter updates and teach-ins are heading. But Democratic leaders including Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed support for the protesters this week and officials such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have said they sympathize with the protestors' feelings of anger towards big banks' role in the financial crisis.

Organized labor has also backed the protests including during a march this past Wednesday that brought 10,000 protesters to lower Manhattan. Though the demonstration was peaceful, some protesters ended up in confrontations with police and 28 participants were arrested. At least one baton-wielding incident produced mass outrage. These incidents will either become minor distractions or defining moments.

Occupy Wall Street has been largely receptive to the support they've received from union leaders and politicians, even if the protesters are wary of their hierarchical structures.

"We're very excited to have our union brothers and sisters march on the heart of greed," spokesman Patrick Bruner told HuffPost's Matt Sledge before a 10,000-strong Wednesday march organized in coordination with labor.

“We don’t necessarily think that the way they’re structured is the best,” Bruner said, referring to the unions' top-down organizational style. "But we believe the 99% needs a voice, and they're one of the few remaining."

Despite gaining traction across the country, protesters have been criticized for not having a clear platform. However, they adopted the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” last week. Their list of grievances is long, with issues including the foreclosure crisis, work-place discrimination and student loan debt. The protests in New York and other cities focus on income inequality, a theme common in the group’s internet presence, including on a Tumblr that showcases Americans dealing with joblessness and other issues.

Even if the protesters were able to narrow their concerns to one, easily defined goal, some organizers say that would miss the point. So what comes next?

If you've been to an Occupy Wall Street event anywhere in the country, we'd like to hear from you. Send OfftheBus your photos, links to videos or first-hand accounts of what you've seen for possible inclusion in The Huffington Posts's coverage at offthebus@huffingtonpost.com. If you would like to sign up to be a citizen journalist through OfftheBus, sign up at offthebus.org.

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Via HuffPost Miami:

When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.

From the Miami New Times:

The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.

"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."

...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.

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Via HuffPost DC:

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.

Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)

The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."

Full story here.

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OWS reports via its website:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

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Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.

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The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.

A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.

According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.

To read the full story, go here.

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Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:

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Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:

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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:

At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.

By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.

Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.

To read the full story, go here.

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@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!

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@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS

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@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)

Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"

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@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet

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@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS

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@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.

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@ troutish : Protesters being dragged out by the head at #OWS #Zucotti Park http://t.co/qomhKkrA

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Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : Police are moving in. It's chaos.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS

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@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS

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@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.

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Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.

"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.

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Owly Images

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS

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Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.

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@ RDevro : A tarp is going up in Zuccotti as protesters march around the park chant-dancing. #m17 http://t.co/rJfP3GF9

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