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Wall Street protest enters fourth day

Peter Foley / EPA

New York police try to direct protesters marching on Wall Street Tuesday.

A protest called “Occupy Wall Street” entered its fourth day Tuesday as a loosely organized group of activists converged on lower Manhattan and clashed with police.

The protest began Saturday when several thousand people gathered in front of the New York Stock Exchange holding signs saying "We must end corporate tyranny and corruption" and "Debt is slavery." By Tuesday, the crowd had dwindled to several hundred.

New York police have made a handful of arrests -- two on Saturday when protesters tried to enter a Bank of America office and six more on Monday. At least four on Monday were held for wearing masks, which is illegal for groups of two or more, police said. A video posted on YouTube Monday appears to show police arresting at least one protester.

"The elite corporate power have hijacked democracy," Alexander Penley, an international lawyer from New York, told Reuters. "The economic depression we are experiencing today has something to do with how Wall Street is run."

Demonstrators have displayed other signs including "Commodity inflation causes starvation" and "I can't afford a lobbyist."

The idea for the protest apparently originated with a Vancouver-based magazine called Adbusters, which describes itself as “a not-for-profit, reader-supported, 120,000-circulation magazine concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces.” 

In a July 13 blog post, the magazine called on readers to emulate the "Arab Spring" uprisings that began in Tahrir Square in Cairo in January. The magazine called on readers to “flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.” The purpose of the protest, according to the post, is to end “the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”

“It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY,” the post proclaimed. “We're doomed without it.”

On Tuesday, police maintained a heavy presence in the Financial District, partitioning off areas of the sidewalk and slowing pedestrian traffic in a neighborhood that typically attracts heavy tourist traffic.

The demonstrators have vowed to stay for months.

Check out some great photos of the protest here.