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Wall Street protesters energized by park decision

    A man affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protests tackled a police officer during a march towards Wall Street in New York on Friday. The official cleanup of a plaza in lower Manhattan where protesters have been camped out for a month was postponed early Friday, sending up cheers from a crowd that had scrambled to scrub the park on its own out of fear the effort was merely a pretext to evict them.

NEW YORK » Anti-Wall Street protesters went into Saturday campaigns emboldened by a change of plans among park property owners and police to usher them out of their lower Manhattan encampment for cleanup and impose restrictions that would have essentially shut down their Occupy Wall Street headquarters.

"We are going to piggy-back off the success of today, and it’s going to be bigger than we ever imagined," said protester Daniel Zetah after Friday’s announcement that protesters could remain in the park.

Over the past month, the protest against corporate greed and economic inequality has spread from New York City to cities elsewhere across the United States and around the world. Several demonstrations were planned this weekend in the U.S., Canada and Europe, as well as in Asia and Africa.

Supporters in Sydney, Australia, waved signs today with slogans such as "you can’t eat money." About 200 people in Tokyo joined the global protests, and Philippine supporters in Manila marched on the U.S. Embassy to express support for Occupy Wall Street and to denounce "U.S. imperialism" and U.S.-led wars and aggression.

Stateside, marches were planned for today in cities across the country, from Providence, R.I.; to Little Rock, Ark.; to Seattle.

In New York, a march on a bank was scheduled for late morning with a rally simultaneously elsewhere, to be followed by other events through the day that were to culminate in what organizers called an Occupation Party starting late in the afternoon in Times Square.

The Friday showdown in New York came as tensions rose, with several arrests in many U.S. cities and scattered clashes between demonstrators and police.

Zuccotti Park owners had planned to temporarily evict the protesters in the morning so the grounds could be power-washed. The protesters, their numbers swelled to about 2,000 before daybreak, feared the cleanup was a pretext to break up the demonstration. They vowed to stand their ground.

Just minutes before the appointed hour, park owners Brookfield Office Properties announced it would postpone the cleanup at the request of "a number of local political leaders." The company gave no details. Word of the decision brought boisterous cheers from the demonstrators and predictions that it would strengthen the movement in the U.S. and beyond.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose girlfriend is on Brookfield’s board of directors, said his staff was under strict orders not to pressure the company one way or the other. He noted that Brookfield can still go ahead with the cleanup at some point.

In San Diego, police used pepper spray to break up a human chain formed around a tent by anti-Wall Street demonstrators. Police in riot gear herded hundreds of protesters away from the Colorado state capitol early Friday in Denver, arresting about two dozen people and dismantling their encampment. In New Jersey’s capital of Trenton, protesters were ordered to remove tents near a war memorial.

In New York City, police arrested 15 people, including protesters who obstructed traffic by standing or sitting in the street and others who turned over trash baskets and hurled bottles. A deputy inspector was sprayed in the face with an unknown liquid.

In one case, an observer with the National Lawyers Guild who was marching with the group refused to move off the street for police, and the tip of his foot was run over by an officer’s scooter. He fell to the ground screaming and writhing and kicked over the scooter before police flipped him over and arrested him.

And a video posted online showed a police officer punching a protester in the side of the head on a crowded street. Police said the altercation occurred after the man tried to elbow the officer in the face and other people in the crowd jumped on the officer, who was sprayed with a liquid coming from the man’s direction. Police said the man, who escaped and was wanted for attempted assault on an officer, later said in an online interview he’s HIV positive and the officer should be tested medically.

A man who identified himself as the protester, Felix Rivera-Pitre, said in a statement posted online that he didn’t provoke the officer. "I was just doing what everyone else was doing in the march," he said. "It felt like he was taking his frustrations out on me."

Organizers in Des Moines, Iowa, accepted an offer Friday night from the mayor to move from the state Capitol where they were prohibited from staying overnight to a city park blocks away, averting a possible showdown.

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