Thousands march in Occupy Wall Street protest
Thousands of people waving signs and chanting slogans marched Wednesday afternoon from Occupy Wall Street's encampment in Lower Manhattan's financial district to Foley Square in front of the courthouse to press their anti-greed message.
It was by far the biggest march yet in New York since the movement began Sept. 17 and was helped by the presence of people representing various labor groups, among them transportation union workers, nurses and teachers. Many of the marchers, though, appeared to be unaffiliated with a particular group and were there to either voice their own gripes or lend support to the die-hard protesters who have occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan.
"I shoot my mouth off a lot about politics so I figured it was time I got into the game," said Alexis Portilla, 46, of New York, who was sitting on the courthouse steps watching the crowd fill Foley Square across the street. He held a sign that read "Heal America" that was handed out by members of a nurses union but said his loyalties weren't to any group in particular.
Portilla said if enough groups and individuals lend their support to the movement nationwide, it could create a force "with the legs to stand up to Wall Street," which he said is missing in Washington, D.C. As the crowd began pouring into Foley Square about 4:30 p.m., he went to join them and vanished into a sea of signs, some of which said: "Stop the war on workers;" "Billionaires, your time is up;" "Wall Street needs an enema;" "Corporations are NOT people."
At Zuccotti Park, where marchers set off in large pre-arranged groups apparently to keep the sidewalks from getting too crowded, Melanie Hamlett, 33, had driven out from Pennsylvania for the day. She held aloft a sign showing her displeasure with Alabama's harsh immigration laws, but said her real purpose in supporting the Occupy Wall Street crowd was to protest what she calls the country's obsession with money.
"I've been waiting for this to happen for years," she said of the movement, as various sub-groups of protesters milled about or sat in large clusters in Zuccotti Park.
In one corner was a large meditation group who said nothing. In another section of the park, drummers pounded on bongos. A topless woman with a fake black mustache marched past, protesting something -- just what, nobody could say. It didn't matter to Hamlett, who said the mass gathering was sending a clear message that things have to change.
"Finally, an awakening. It's hard because there are so many issues at stake," she said when asked about her main complaint. "But it all comes down to money."
--Tina Susman in New York
Photo: Police escort Occupy Wall Street protesters marching to join a union rally Wednesday in New York Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press