Now similar protests are springing up in Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago, and organizers in Washington plan a march at Freedom Plaza on Thursday to “denounce the systems and institutions that support endless war and unrestrained corporate greed.”
On Monday morning, the scene at the heart of the self-styled Occupy Wall Street movement — Zuccotti Park, two blocks north of Wall Street — had the feeling of a street fair, with women in brightly colored wigs playing with hula hoops.
A collection of protesters wearing white face paint with streaks resembling blood at their lips conducted a “zombie parade” down Broadway to underscore what they see as the ghoulish nature of capitalism.
Despite having no single leader and no organized agenda, the protesters insist they are on the verge of translating their broad expression of grievance into a durable national cause. “The criticism has focused on the lack of cohesion in our message and demands,” said Arthur Kohl-Riggs, 23, a political activist from Madison, Wis. But what the critics don’t understand, he said, is “the value of forming a direct democratic movement” that is not controlled by political elites.
The protests have drawn an assortment of anarchists, anti-globalization activists and disaffected 20-somethings from North Carolina, Minnesota and Wisconsin — the type of polyglot crowd that has been known to disrupt International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings. But the efforts have also drawn support from union members, including New York transportation workers who allowed some of the protesters to take shelter inside the subway system.
Brought together by outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, participants hope the New York protests can plant the seeds of a permanent national movement. The site www.
occupytogether.org serves as a clearinghouse for information on the movement and includes a list of events around the country.
The primary theme is that corporate capitalists, backed by corrupt politicians, have tipped the balance of the economic system too far in favor of the powerful, thus condemning the regular guy to a sea of debt and little opportunity. As one sign put it: “The loan shark ate my world.”
“The American dream is dead or dying,” said Max Richmond, 26, a New York City-based carpenter from Millerton, N.Y. “Four or five weeks ago, I was just another apathetic, defeatist member of my generation. Being here, I’m not. We were all just waiting for something like this to happen.”
The movement has struck a chord in some liberal New York circles, attracting celebrities such as actress Susan Sarandon and former New York governor David Paterson. It also got a seal of approval from one of the world’s most successful capitalists, billionaire George Soros, who said the demonstrators had every reason to be angry at the U.S. financial system for jeopardizing their future.