Wall Street protesters show no sign of quitting
N.Y. event grows in number, gets more organized
NEW YORK - The protesters who have been camping out in Manhattan’s Financial District for more than two weeks eat donated food and keep their laptops running with a portable gas-powered generator. They have a newspaper - the Occupied Wall Street Journal - and a makeshift hospital.
They lack a clear objective, though they speak against corporate greed, social inequality, global climate change, and other concerns. But they are growing in numbers, getting more organized, and showing no sign of quitting.
City officials “thought we were going to leave and we haven’t left,’’ said protester Kira Moyer-Sims, 19. “We’re going to stay as long as we can.’’
Saturday’s arrests of more than 700 protesters who tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm yesterday.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstration started last month with less than a dozen college students spending days and nights in Zuccotti Park, a private plaza off Broadway. It has grown sizably, however, both in New York City and elsewhere as people across the country, from Boston to Los Angeles, display solidarity in similar protests.
Moyer-Sims, of Portland, Ore., said the group has grown much more organized. “We have a protocol for most things,’’ she said, including getting legal help for people who are arrested.
The demonstration has drawn protesters of diverse ages and occupations, including Jackie Fellner, a marketing manager from Westchester County.
“We’re not here to take down Wall Street,’’ she said. “It’s not poor against rich. It’s about big money dictating which politicians get elected and what programs get funded.’’
Yesterday, a group of New York public school teachers, including Denise Martinez of Brooklyn, sat in the plaza. She most students at her school live at or below the poverty level, and her classes are jammed with up to about 50 students.
“These are America’s future workers, and what’s trickling down to them are the problems - the unemployment, the crime,’’ she said. She blamed Wall Street for causing the country’s financial problems and said it needed to do more to solve them.
Police officers have been a regular sight at the plaza. “As always, if it is a lawful demonstration, we help facilitate, and if they break the law we arrest them,’’ New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
The Fire Department said it had gone to the site to check for any fire-safety hazards arising from people living in the plaza, but there have been no major issues.
The protesters have spent most of their time in the plaza, sleeping on air mattresses, holding assemblies to discuss their goals, and listening to speakers including filmmaker Michael Moore and Princeton University professor Cornel West.
On the past two Saturdays, though, they marched to other parts of the city, which led to tense standoffs with police.
On Sept. 24, about 100 people were arrested and the group put out video that showed a police official pepper-spraying women.
On Saturday, more than 700 people were arrested as the group attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Some of the protesters said that they were lured onto the roadway by police or that they didn’t hear the calls from authorities to head to the pedestrian walkway.
Police said that no one was tricked into being arrested and that those in the back of the group who couldn’t hear were allowed to leave.
The NYPD yesterday released video footage to back up its stance. In one of the videos, an official uses a bullhorn to warn the crowd.
Erin Larkins, a Columbia University graduate student at who said she and her boyfriend have significant student loan debt, was among the thousands of protesters on the bridge.
“I don’t think we’re asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again,’’ Larkins said. “No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world listen.’’
Gatherings elsewhere yesterday included one in Boston, where protesters set up an encampment across the street from the Federal Reserve building. A demonstration in Providence attracted about 60 people to a public park.
During the length of the New York protest, turnout has varied, but the numbers have reached as high as about a few thousand.
Seasoned activists said the ad-hoc protest could prove to be a training ground for future organizers of larger and more cohesive demonstrations or motivate those on the sidelines to speak out against injustices.
“You may not get much, or any, of these things on the first go-around,’’ said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a longtime civil rights activist who has participated in protests for decades. “But it’s the long haul that matters.’’