Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Protest Digs In, Spreads
Oct. 3, 2011
By ANDREW GROSSMAN in New York and JACK NICAS in Chicago
As anti-Wall Street protests spread from New York to other U.S. cities, the activists beginning their third week inside a Lower Manhattan park urged participants to dress up as "corporate zombies" on Monday.
Organizers told the Associated Press that they would hold an anti-police brutality protest on the steps of City Hall, as well as a rally in support of union workers outside Sotheby's auction house on the Upper East Side. New York police arrested hundreds of demonstrators Saturday after a group blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Over the weekend, budding copycat movements spread across the country, with smaller-scale protests planned via online social-networking sites. Protesters held sizable gatherings in Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. In other cities, like San Francisco and Pittsburgh, protests were smaller or existed only in a planning stage.
A website, occupytogether.org, lists groups that are offshoots of the New York protest. Activists have begun organizing outside the U.S., including in Prague, Melbourne and Montreal. A map of the country displayed in the Manhattan park held by demonstrators identified 21 places where other protests were organized.
In New York, the protesters initially set out to occupy Wall Street but were rebuffed by police. Instead, the group set up in a nearby park, keeping the "Occupy Wall Street" moniker. The spread to other cities appears largely organic—the protests don't have a central organizer—and the idea came from a Canadian magazine and grew on social media websites.
Those protesting in New York have been circulating a list of grievances, most of which are aimed at corporations that they say are too powerful and often unethical. Among the complaints: bank executives received "exorbitant" bonuses not long after receiving taxpayer bailouts and companies have "poisoned the food supply through negligence" and "continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate better pay and safer working conditions."
Many of the protesters are young. Joblessness seems to be a persistent theme. A blog that has become popular has pictures of people's faces next to stories of economic woe and messages of support for the protesters.
"From 2006-2009 I owned a business with 12 employees," reads one, superimposed over a photo of a man and his young son, both smiling. "I closed my doors in 2009. I lost my home in 2010. I lived in my truck for six months. Now I rent a tiny room. I have no health insurance."
It's unclear how long the protests will last, or whether they will take hold in the other cities on par with the New York protests. Like the initial stage of the New York protest, much of the activity in the offshoot cities is still taking place online on Facebook.
Nathaniel Glosser, a 46-year-old Pittsburgh writer, is helping organize what he calls "the Occupy Pittsburgh movement."
Mr. Glosser, a veteran of anti-war marches, said he was inspired by what he saw in New York and started looking for people online who might do something like it in Pittsburgh.
"After several days of searching on the Internet, I found that there were several hundred people who had signed up on the Facebook group and then I just jumped in with both feet," Mr. Glosser said. "Most of the people who started this have very little organizing experience."
Mr. Glosser's group plans to meet at a Unitarian church on Wednesday and plans to hold its first rally on Oct. 15.
In Los Angeles, hundreds marched on City Hall on Saturday on the first day of protests. In San Francisco, about two dozen people camped out Sunday afternoon outside the Federal Reserve branch. Some had tents. Others played guitars. Their posters said: "Arrest the fat cats."
In Chicago, protesters occupied a narrow sidewalk outside the city's branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. They've been there around the clock for 10 consecutive days. At 3 p.m. Sunday, more than 100 gathered for an organizational meeting that was labeled the general assembly in which anyone can participate—a hallmark of the protests.
Organizers shouted instructions through a small orange cone: No violence, be friendly to police, continue "the revolution."
The protesters were diverse in race, gender, age and dress. Among the headwear in the crowd were beanies, ushankas, do-rags, fedoras, bandanas and one green helmet. Some wore boots, others were barefoot. Some offered handrolled cigarettes out of small vintage cases. Many gave their Twitter handle in addition to their name when introducing themselves.
James Cox, a 25-year-old waitress, discovered the movement on Twitter and showed up on the second day when there were just seven people. She has now slept on the sidewalk for a week and has become and organizer, keeping track of donated food and water.
Protesters in Chicago are putting the New York group's grievances to a vote, amending some and adopting others as is.
"We definitely stand in solidarity," said Mark Banks, a 30-year-old unemployed biochemist and Occupy Chicago spokesman. "But we're employing a very careful, inclusive process to make sure what they're trying to say is what we're trying to say."
"We are part of a global and spreading movement," shouted Micah Philbrook, a 33-year-old actor with shaggy white hair who serves a press liaison for the Occupy Chicago movement. To amplify the speakers' words, the crowd repeated each sentence.
"I'm a semi-disabled 58 yr old granny with little or no transportation but whenever it is decided on date & place for OUR rally, I will do my darnedest to be there!" wrote a woman name Marilyn McCarty on the Facebook page for a Birmingham, Ala., occupation, which does not yet have a set date or time.
*The Associated Press and Geoffrey Fowler contributed to this article.