Occupy Wall Street hits 2-month mark, launches 'day of action'
Occupy Wall Street vowed to mark the two-month anniversary of its protests with a "day of action" Thursday, beginning with a march to the heart of the financial district -- the New York Stock Exchange -- that drew hundreds of chanting, sign-waving supporters to lower Manhattan.
By 8 a.m., demonstrators had gathered near Zuccotti Park, their former encampment, chanting "All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!" as they prepared to march the few blocks to the stock exchange. They vowed to later occupy about 16 subway stations before carrying their protest to Foley Square outside Manhattan's courthouses.
But scores of police blanketed the area near Zuccotti Park, setting the scene for possible clashes similar to those that have led to hundreds of arrests in past demonstrations.
Tensions were especially high in the wake of Tuesday morning's surprise police raid of Zuccotti Park, which dismantled Occupy Wall Street's 2-month-old tent city there. A judge has ruled that the city had the right to prevent marchers from camping there, forcing protesters to spend their nights elsewhere.
Kristin Gardner, 46, a former teacher, carried a sign that read "40,000 in student loans where's my bailout." She said she didn't know what would become of the movement, but added, "I hope we make a statement to our government that changes the focus of what is important."
Protesters clogged the narrow streets near the stock exchange, and the banging of drums and chants of "We are the 99%" competed with the noise of rush hour traffic and crowds. Occupy Wall Street says it represents the 99% of people caught up in the financial downturn, and it wants the remaining 1% to pay higher taxes and help the less wealthy.
One woman wearing a black Burberry coat and carrying a briefcase appeared frustrated but was smiling as she was slowed by the crowds. Another, Fran Grau, 51, who works for a nonprofit in the Wall Street area, said she had come to work early after hearing of the "day of action" plans. "I'm excited in a sense," she said of the demonstration, as she stood on a sidewalk with protesters blocking her path.
Bill Dobbs, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman, estimated there were about 1,500 marchers. Despite Tuesday's eviction from Zuccotti Park, he said, the movement is solid.
"We are here making a loud outcry about economic conditions of this country. It's been two months, and nobody thought we could get past one day," he said.
-- Geraldine Baum in New York
Photo: Mounted police assemble on Broad Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange before Thursday's protest. Credit: Richard Drew / AP Photo.