Wall Street protest expected to widen

By Verena Dobnik

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5 2011 7:10 a.m. MDT

A commuters walks through Zuccotti Park in the financial district where Occupy Wall Street protestors are encamped in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. The protests have gathered momentum and gained participants in recent days as news of mass arrests and a coordinated media campaign by the protestors have given rise to similar demonstrations around the country.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The protests on Wall Street, the fabled center of American commerce, are expected to swell with reinforcements as more groups head toward lower Manhattan, widening the scope of the ongoing demonstrations.

Among those planning to join the clamor on Wednesday are the liberal group MoveOn.org and community organizations like the Working Families Party and United NY. The growing crowd will also include members of the Chinatown Tenants Union and the Transit Workers Union, signaling that a protest that started out small is showing no signs of losing steam. Meanwhile, organizers have called for students at college campuses across the nation to walk out of class in protest at 2 p.m.

"I think they're capturing a feel of disempowerment, feeling like nobody is listening to them," said Camille Rivera, executive director of United NY. "What do you do when no one is listening to you? You speak up, you take action."

The groups will embark on yet another march, this one from Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, which was named for "Big Tom" Foley, a former blacksmith's helper who became a prominent New York Democratic Party leader.

The marchers will head to Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters where protesters have been camped out in sleeping bags. It's unclear how many people will be joining the march on Wednesday, but some organizers say thousands could show up.

MoveOn.org is planning a "virtual march" on its website by encouraging people to post photos of themselves with the caption: "I'm the 99 percent" — a reference to those people not among the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and the debate over whether they should be taxed more. The group's executive director, Justin Ruben, called the protesters "brave young people" who have successfully inspired others to join them.

"From our perspective, we're protesting kind of the greed that led to the collapse of our economy," Ruben said. "The fact that these banks aren't paying their fair share."

Many of those who work on Wall Street say they don't take the protests personally. Indeed, some even sympathize.

"It's really incredible to me, the passion and conviction these people have," said Lou Crossin, who works for a company that sells corporate governance research to large investors. "I don't think these are violent people. They're just standing up for their beliefs."

Crossin said the protesters — with their chanting in unison, leafleting and drum circles — reminded him of the lyrics of a song from his youth by Jefferson Airplane: "Look what's happening out in the streets. Got a revolution."

He wasn't the only one to feel that way. Sam Schmidt, a criminal defense attorney who walks by the park every day, said the protests took him back to when he was a college student in 1970 and went to Washington, D.C., to oppose the war in Vietnam.

"I'm 60 years old. I lived through the '60s and the '70s, and this is nothing. I think it is well-behaved. We've got a few crazies, but we have a few crazies here (in New York) anyway," he said. "It's just reminiscent of my youth."

AP National Writer Adam Geller contributed to this report.

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