Protesters: We’re in for the long haul
Sunday, October 2, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) — 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’re growing in numbers, getting more organized and show no sign of quitting.
City officials “thought we were going to leave and we haven’t left,” 19-year-old protester Kira Moyer-Sims said. “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 Sunday.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstration started out 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 their 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 protest 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. It’s not poor against rich. It’s about big money dictating which politicians get elected and what programs get funded,” she said.
On Sunday, a group of New York public school teachers sat in the plaza, including Denise Martinez of Brooklyn. 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, but NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the protest has not led the department to assign additional officers to the area. The department won’t change its approach to handling the protest and will continue regular patrols and monitoring, he said.
“As always, if it is a lawful demonstration, we help facilitate and if they break the law we arrest them,” Browne said.
The Fire Department said it had gone to the site several times over the past week 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.