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Occupy Wall Street reaches 1-month birthday

By Verena Dobnik

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 1:10 a.m. MDT

Police look on as protesters, who are part of the Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstration continue their demonstration outside St Paul's Cathedral, London Sunday Oct. 16, 2011. Protesters in cities across Europe take part in rallies inspired by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the United States, expressing their frustration at social inequality and corporate greed.

PA Wire) UNITED KINGDOM OUT, AP Photo/Yui Mok

NEW YORK — The month-old Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow, with nearly $300,000 in the bank and participants finding satisfaction in the widening impact they hope will counter the influence on society by those who hold the purse strings of the world's economies.

The expanding occupation of land once limited to a small Manhattan park in the shadow of the rising World Trade Center complex continued through the weekend, with hundreds of thousands of people rallying around the world and numerous encampments springing up in cities large and small.

For the most part, the protest action remained loosely organized and there were no specific demands, something Legba Carrefour, a participant in the Occupy D.C. protest, found comforting on Sunday.

"When movements come up with specific demands, they cease to be movements and transform into political campaign rallies," said Carrefour, who works as a coat check attendant despite holding a master's degree in cultural studies. "It's compelling a lot of people to come out for their own reasons rather than the reasons that someone else has given to them."

The demonstrations worldwide have emboldened those camped out at Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the movement that began a month ago Monday. But there is conflict too. Some protesters eventually want the movement to rally around a goal, while others insist that isn't the point.

"We're moving fast, without a hierarchical structure and lots of gears turning," said Justin Strekal, a college student and political organizer who traveled from Cleveland to New York to help. "... Egos are clashing, but this is participatory democracy in a little park."

Even if the protesters were barred from camping in Zuccotti Park, as the property owner and the city briefly threatened to do last week, the movement would continue, Strekal said.

Wall Street protesters are intent on building on momentum gained from Saturday's worldwide demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in the U.S. and Europe.

Nearly $300,000 in cash has been donated through the movement's website and by visitors to the park, said Bill Dobbs, a press liaison for Occupy Wall Street. The movement has an account at Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as "the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States."

Donated goods ranging from blankets and sleeping bags to cans of food and medical and hygienic supplies are being stored in a cavernous space donated by the United Federation of Teachers, which has offices in the building a block from Wall Street near the private park protesters occupy.

Among the items are 20 pairs of swimming goggles (to shield protesters from pepper-spray attacks). Supporters are shipping about 300 boxes a day, many with notes and letters, Strekal said.

"Some are heartwrenching, beautiful," and come from people who have lost jobs and houses, he said. "So they send what they can, even if it's small."

Strekal said donated goods, stored for a "long-term occupation," have been used to create "Jail Support" kits consisting of a blanket, a granola bar and sanitary wipes for arrested protesters to receive when they are freed.

The movement has become an issue in the Republican presidential primary race and beyond, with politicians from both parties under pressure to weigh in.

President Barack Obama referred to the protests at Sunday's dedication of a monument for Martin Luther King Jr., saying the civil rights leader "would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there."

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