Thousands of anti-corporation protesters converged in Manhattan’s financial district yesterday in a march organized by the Occupy Wall Street movement and backed by several major unions.
It was the largest demonstration coordinated to date by the activists, who have been encamped at Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17. They were joined by college students and union activists, including United Auto Workers and Transit Workers.
The Occupy movement began to gain momentum with an attempted march from Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge last Saturday, when the arrests of more than 700 protesters attracted national attention. Activists in today’s march said they still have their sights trained on Brooklyn.
The procession left Zuccotti Park around 3:30 p.m. and slowly made its way north to Foley Square, which is ringed by judicial and government administration buildings. Protesters chanted “end the wars, tax the rich” and “this is what democracy looks like” as they walked up an uncharacteristically awe-struck Broadway. Many held signs condemning everything from corporate greed and the Federal Reserve to environmentally detrimental mining practices and animal cruelty. One woman had scrawled “Police and Wall St Employees Join Us” inside a pizza box in blotches of dried tomato sauce and cheese.
Activists said they are determined to bring the city’s most populous borough into the movement.
“If there’s a part of the city we should occupy next, it’s Brooklyn,” 19-year-old Jesse Young, who was among the protesters arrested on the bridge, said.
According to Young, Saturday’s original plan was to cross the bridge via the pedestrian walkway toward a park across the river. But when someone shouted “revolutions don’t get started by doing what people tell you to do,” hundreds of marchers began filing into the street instead.
“We got halfway across and suddenly we were caught in a cop sandwich,” Young said. “I walked up and let them arrest me. The worst thing was waiting in the crowded paddy wagon for an hour. Then they took us to 1 Police Plaza and we just joked around in the cell for six hours.”
Despite his arrest, Young said he remains optimistic about Brooklyn’s role in the Occupy movement.
“Places like Bushwick seem to have an untapped reservoir of anarchists and radicals,” he said. “Its involvement will really help the revolution.”
As would Williamsburg’s, according to Brooklyn retiree Eric Seligson.
“That neighborhood has the numbers, the sheer demographic of young, artistic people,” Seligson said. “With that many kids, we could do anything.”
There were many ideas, but little consensus on how to incorporate Brooklyn into the movement — a reflection of the eclectic ranks of the protesters, who include teenagers and septuagenarians, students and communists, anti-war demonstrators and 9/11 “truthers.”
At the center of the discussion is another march across the bridge.
“We need to bring this into Brooklyn so that people there will feel closer to the action,” Park Slope’s Jennifer Shirazi said while holding her five month-old daughter. “Get further: Park Slope, Prospect Heights. Grand Army Plaza would be a perfect place to march to.”
A dozen feet away, Will Roper disagreed.
“Crossing the bridge was a mistake,” the 33 year-old activist said. “It seems like it was brought on by people in the group looking to make the movement look ridiculous. This is where we need to be, on Wall Street, and Brooklyn needs to come here to us and show support.”
Some already have, including 72 year-old Joan Pleune, who came from Bay Ridge donning a yellow smock that read “Granny Peace Brigade.”
“I was a 1961 freedom fighter and I’ve been active ever since,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this for 50 years.”
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