Hundreds of people protesting against economic inequality marched in New York's financial district Thursday and there were minor skirmishes with police, but authorities thwarted their bid to shut down Wall Street.

Police barricaded the narrow streets around the New York Stock Exchange and used batons to push protesters onto the sidewalk as they marched through the area during the morning rush hour to prevent financial workers getting to their desks.

Protesters banged drums and yelled ``We are the 99 percent'' -- referring to their contention that the U.S. political system benefits only the richest 1 percent. Some chanted at police: ''You're sexy, you're blue, now take off that riot suit.''

``I feel like this is a beautiful moment to take back our streets,'' said Rachel Falcone, 27, from Brooklyn. ``We need to prove we can exist anywhere. It's gone beyond a single neighborhood, it's really an idea.''

About 75 people were arrested, police said, but by 11 a.m. protesters had returned to nearby Zuccotti Park, which had been the two-month-old Occupy Wall Street movement's camp headquarters before police evicted them from the space Tuesday.

The New York Stock Exchange opened on time and was operating normally.

The turnout for the march on Wall Street, which kicked off a day of action in New York and elsewhere in the United States, fell short of expectations by a spokesman for the protesters and city officials for tens of thousands of people.

``We certainly want to see more people mobilize and show up,'' said Occupy Wall Street spokesman Jeff Smith. ``It was a fantastic turnout, we occupied corners and intersections all over downtown.''

Protesters are also planning to take their protest to 16 subway hubs later Thursday, then return to City Hall for a rally before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Last month, more than 700 people were arrested during a similar march across the bridge after some protesters blocked traffic.

The support of labor unions and liberal group Moveon.org could boost numbers at the New York City Hall rally.

In Los Angeles, hundreds of protesters and union members marched through the city's financial district chanting ``Whose streets? Our streets'' in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, while in Dallas more than a dozen people were arrested when police shut down their six-week-old camp near City Hall.

'GET A JOB'

New York taxi driver Mike Tupea, a Romanian immigrant, said his car was stuck amid the protesters for 40 minutes.

``I have to make a living. I pay $100 for 12 hours for this cab. I am losing money every minute,'' he said. ``I have all my sympathies for this movement but let me do my living, let working people make a living.''

The Occupy Wall Street movement was born on Sept. 17, when protesters set up camp in Zuccotti Park, and sparked solidarity rallies and occupations of public spaces across the United States. It has also re-energized similar movements elsewhere in the world.

Peter Cohen, 47, an anthropologist from New York, wore a suit for the protest in a bid to improve the movement's image.

``I have a job and (the suit) on because I'm tired of the way this movement has been characterized as a fringe movement,'' said Cohen. ``I'm not looking for money, I'm not looking for a job, I'm not a professional activist, just a normal citizen.''

Protesters say they are upset that billions of dollars in bailouts given to banks during the recession allowed a return to huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and a struggling economy.

They also say the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share of taxes.

As he tried to get to his financial district office, Paul Layton, a trial lawyer, said he hoped ``that through (the protesters) efforts they can convince government to regulate the financial industry.''

Derek Tabacco was not happy as he tried to get to the offices of his financial technology company and was carrying a sign with a message for the protesters that read ``Get a job.''

The clearing of the Occupy camp in New York followed evictions in Atlanta, Portland and Salt Lake City. Unlike action in Oakland, California, where police used tear gas and stun grenades, most protesters left voluntarily.

Before dawn Thursday, police cleared away a protest camp from a plaza at the University of California, Berkeley, where 5,000 people had gathered Tuesday night.

Megyn Norbut, from Brooklyn, said she holds down three jobs and that she joined the protest on Thursday ``because we got kicked out of Zuccotti and we need to show that this is a mental and spiritual movement, not a physical movement.''

``It's not about the park,'' said Norbut, 23.