More than 1,000 demonstrators were arrested today as they marked the 50th anniversary of the Great Crash with an unsuccessful attempt to shut down the New York Stock Exchange to protest nuclear investments.
Few of the protesters -- mainly young, white and peaceful -- made it near the Exchange building today thanks to more than 800 helmeted police who cordoned off the streets surrounding the Wall Street landmark.
And because of plenty of advance warning about the protest, the exchange had made enough preparations -- including bringing most of its employes to work several hours early -- to trade normally the entire day.
Outside, the protestors lay down in front of police barricades to try to block access to the exchange, leafleted passersby and shouted anti-nuclear slogans with the intensity of the anti-war protestors of a decade ago.
But while the actors looked much the same, the violence and bitter confrontation between police and protesters that marked the protests of the '60s was missing.
Police and protesters chatted amiably across barricades. When demonstrators went limp to blockade streets or buildings, police put them in stretchers to carry them to awaiting buses or vans rather than grabbing them by the ankles and dragging them.
New York Police Chief Michael Willis, who handled the operation, clapped hands in unison with singing demonstrators who were blocking Broadway about a block from the exchange.
Police carted off more than 1,000 demonstrators, formally arresting 290 and issuing summonses to 750. As soon as a protester received a summons, he or she left police headquarters.
Many returned to the demonstration, wearing their pink summons forms attached to their shirts.
Organizers of Wall Street Action -- an umbrella group of 60 anti-nuclear and other organizations -- said the day was a success even if the New York Stock Exchange was not shut down.
Lauri Lowry, a lawyer with Wall Street Action, said the anti-nuclear movement would continue to target the link between the nation's financial community and the nuclear power and weapons industry.
The group had met several times in recent months with exchange officials, asking them to stop trading in 61 companies that were involved in nuclear power.
Exchange executive vice president Donald Kittell said they were turned down. "We're a marketplace," he said. "This is not the proper forum for that debate. We only de-list companies for financial or trading reasons."
Among those arrested was former anti-war activists and Pentagon Papers figure Daniel Ellsberg, who was also one of the main speakers at a sparsely attended preliminary rally Sunday at the World Trade Center.
Judy Clegg, who was issued a summons for blocking 100 Wall Street, said that while she would have "liked to have shut down the exchange, the main purpose was raising people's consciousness about nuclear power."
All protesters who came to be arrested took special classes in non-violent protest.
The demonstrations took on a festive air on Broad Street, at the rear of the exchange. A Dixieland band played as protesters in animal costumes and on stilts led their compatriots in anti-nuclear songs.
As the formal demonstration broke down by mid-afternoon, protesters and Wall Street workers engaged in debates about nuclear power, welfare and a host of other social and economic issues.
For its part, the New York Stock Exchange closed at 4 p.m., as usual, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.68 points, a far cry from the 30.57 points the index dropped 50 years ago.