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Wet weather curtails Wall Street protests in New York

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The number of protesters shrinks in Manhattan amid rain
  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg likens the group to the tea party
  • Police patrol Zuccotti Park as protesters try to stay dry
  • Bloomberg defends JP Morgan Chase CEO, calling him one of the "great bankers"

New York (CNN) -- The number of Wall Street protesters shrank Wednesday after cold, damp weather moved across Manhattan, leaving a core group of demonstrators to hold up a fourth week of encampments in New York's Zuccotti Park.

A patchwork of blue and green plastic tarps littered the area where, underneath, demonstrators attempted to keep dry while rallying around the still loosely defined movement.

Occupy Wall Street participants refer to themselves as the 99% -- a reference to their insistence that most Americans lack the influence in their country's political and financial affairs enjoyed by the elite.

Police, meanwhile, patrolled the privately owned park in the city's financial district, peeking under the scatterings of plastic blankets in an effort to enforce an ordinance that restricts structures from being erected without a permit.

New York's protests have inspired similar demonstrations nationwide. And though largely peaceful, they have led to some skirmishes with police and hundreds of arrests.

The group's media arm, however, continued to churn out a live streaming video of the area on Wednesday, while also maintaining a website and Twitter feed in their efforts to garner additional attention.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said authorities will defend protesters' right to demonstrate, but he doesn't appreciate "the bashing of all of the hardworking people who live and work here."

"Our city depends on the jobs that the financial services industry provides," Bloomberg said during a news conference in the Bronx.

A group of union-backed organizations staged a demonstration Tuesday, leaving Lower Manhattan for the city's Upper East Side, where they marched past the homes of well-to-do residents such as billionaire David Koch and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch.

But Bloomberg said he didn't understand what those protests were meant to achieve, later likening them to the tea party, a political movement that became integral to the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives last year.

"It is a movement of people who don't like what's going on," the mayor said.

Bloomberg -- himself a billionaire and former Wall Street executive -- went further and defended those who were the targets of pickets during Tuesday's Upper East Side march, including JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

He called Dimon one of the "great bankers," who has "brought more business to this city than maybe any other banker in modern day."

The mayor's comments also coincided with a state comptroller report that predicted Wall Street could lose an additional 10,000 jobs by the end of 2012, raising the total number of jobs lost in the securities industry since 2008 to 32,000.

Rallies and marches, meanwhile, have continued in numerous towns and cities around the country, with many more planned, amid few signs of economic improvements.

In Boston, 129 protesters were arrested in a demonstration Tuesday, mostly for "unlawful assembly and trespassing," said police spokesman Eddy Chrispin.

The group allegedly blocked traffic and refused to disperse while marching to "areas of the city where they hadn't been previously," he said.