By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hundreds of anti-Wall Street demonstrators marched in Chicago on Thursday, blocking traffic on a major downtown bridge to protest cuts to federal programs and a lack of jobs, and police arrested 46 people.
Protesters from labor unions and community groups had gathered in a noisy but peaceful protest on the LaSalle Street bridge across the Chicago River, chanting "Jobs now" and "No more cuts".
Some demonstrators linked arms and sat on the bridge, and were subsequently arrested for obstructing traffic, before the crowd marched in bitter cold into the heart of the city's financial district to surround the Chicago Board of Trade.
The Chicago march came as cities across the country have taken police action in recent days to dismantle protest camps set up as part of the Occupy movement against economic inequality and excesses of the financial system.
The march coincided with a day of action that saw hundreds of people take to the streets of several U.S. cities, including New York where at least 177 people were arrested, in rallies seen as a test of momentum of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
One of the speakers at the rally before the Chicago march was Will Attig, 27, of Carbondale, Illinois, a U.S. Army veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned two Purple Hearts. After he came back from overseas, it took him a year and a half to find a job. He is now a union pipefitter.
"I went from being a soldier and a hero to not having a job or a degree or a future," Attig said, adding he wanted programs to give more veterans jobs.
Among the protesters who were arrested, Alisa Tennessen, 31, of Chicago, said she was protesting to oppose spending cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
"We need to invest money to create jobs to fix the economy," Tennessen said.
The arrests were peaceful, with Chicago police kneeling down to speak to protesters, and then leading them off one by one. The crowd chanted "the whole world is watching," recalling a chant from the violent protests during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
Those arrested in Chicago were given citations and released.
(Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Cynthia Johnston)