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 showing 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.”
The Occupy Wall Street demonstration started out last month with fewer than a dozen college students spending days and nights in Zuccotti Park. It has grown significantly, both in New York and elsewhere as people display their solidarity in similar protests.
Organizers in Toronto and several other Canadian cities say they plan to follow the New York example. Activists say they plan to converge on Toronto’s financial district on Saturday Oct. 15, and will wait to march on the streets until the Toronto Stock Exchange opens on the Monday. Other protests are also planned for Calgary, Victoria, Ottawa, Montreal, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, according to a website called Occupy Together.
Nearly 800 people say they plan to attend the Occupy Toronto event, according to its Facebook page. In Vancouver, more than 1,000 people have said on Facebook that they plan to occupy an area outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Those attending have been asked to bring tents with them, and the group’s Facebook page says protesters will stay “as long as it takes.”
The Occupy Together website suggests similar events are being planned in Mexico, Australia, Tokyo, about a dozen European countries, and more than 40 U.S. states.
The arrests of more than 700 people on Saturday as thousands tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge seemed to pour oil on the rage of those who camped out overnight in Zuccotti Park, a private plaza off Broadway near Wall Street.
The growing, cross-country movement “signals a shift in consciousness,” said Jared Schy, a young man sitting squeezed between three others who participated in Saturday’s march from Manhattan’s Financial District to the bridge.
“We don’t care whether mainstream media covers this or people see us on television. What counts are the more than 30,000 viewers following our online live stream,” he said. “We heard from a lot of them, and they’re joining us now!”
The protest has drawn activists 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.”
On Sunday, a group of New York public school teachers sat in the plaza, including Denise Martinez of Brooklyn. 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.
The New York 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 some women being hit with pepper spray by a police official. On Oct. 1, more than 700 people were arrested as the group attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
Associated Press, with a report from Kim Mackrael in Toronto