On Sunday afternoon the park, already renamed Liberty Square by some protesters, was packed with hundreds of tourists, musicians, union members, well-wishers and mostly younger protesters who had slept through the cold, rainy night in well-worn sleeping bags.
“It’s about democracy; it’s about everyone here has a chance to speak and be heard,” said Justin Brown of Brooklyn, who joined the protest a week ago.
Occupy Wall Street activists protest against everything from global warming to gas prices to corporate greed.
Occupy Wall Street website says its organizers took their inspiration partly from the so-called Arab Spring demonstrations that have tried to bring democracy across the Arab world.
The protesters are getting the word out through social media and their very own newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal.
The majority are under 30, but they are activists of every age. Catharine Revland has been taking part in protests since 1963.
“Every demonstration starts with being ignored,” she said. “Then sneered at. Then hated. Then finally: they get the message.”
The protests have been peaceful until Saturday, when 700 were arrested after a march on the Brooklyn Bridge spilled over from the pedestrian walkway onto the roadway, blocking traffic for several hours. Most of the demonstrators who were arrested were given summonses and released.
Alexander Holmes, a 26-year-old fromOakland,Calif., said he had spent the night in police custody after his arrest Saturday. He was cited for three violations: disorderly conduct, refusal to disperse and blocking a roadway.
Holmes said that if anyone thought “15 hours of no food, no water and a jail experience that is not enjoyable would deter us,” they were “completely mistaken.”
“Every arrest brings another 25, 30, 40, 100 people,” Holmes said. “It’s solidarity. Because they know that we’re not being treated the way we should be for exercising our First Amendment rights.”
Sympathetic protests are popping up in other cities, including Los Angeles; Boston; Washington; Providence, R.I.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Spokane, Wash., with many demonstrations taking place Saturday.
In Los Angeles, protesters gathered in front of City Hall and danced on buses with “peace” emblazoned on the side.
Protesters also turned out inDenver, gathering downtown before marching into the city chanting, “Occupy the streets.”
A smaller protest was held inChicago’s financial district where protesters held placards demanding “Jobs Not Cuts”.
Columbia University political science professor Dorian Warren said he thinks the protests could continue to grow.
“The country as a whole is not happy,”Warrensaid. “Eight out of 10 Americans are not satisfied with the direction of the country. So they’re just expressing what people have been saying.”
The well-stocked kitchen, the constant video livestream and the trickle of people arriving in labor union t-shirts and uniforms attested to the increasing sophistication of the operation. Even Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner and fierce critic of free-market economics, made an appearance to give demonstrators a pep talk.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are now getting the backing of prominent celebrities like documentary film maker Michael Moore and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon.