The estimated 3,000 people flooded the iconic park compared themselves to the “Arab Spring” demonstrations that have toppled totalitarian governments in the Middle East.
Washington Square Park is a lot bigger than Zuccotti, and it’s in a neighborhood dominated by NYU, so they’ll have a steady supply of college kids.
Cops kept a close eye on the protest but there were no reports of violence or arrests. Police fenced off grassy areas in the park, and erected 10-foot high chain link fences around public bathrooms before the march from Zuccotti Park to Washington Square began.
Group spokesman Patrick Bruner said there were no plans to force a confrontation with police that appear determined to enforce a curfew and prevent protesters from camping out there as they have done for weeks at Zuccotti Park.
Bruner said demonstrators have never applied for a permit – and don’t plan to. “We don’t think it’s right that you need permission to peacefully assemble,” he said, quoting the First Amendment. “Permits aren’t necessary.”
Another organizer, Justine Tunney, 26, was blunter. “We plan to stay in Washington Square Park and form a second permanent occupation,” she said.
But, as with everything Occupy Wall Street, it’s unclear exactly what the plan is; Washington Square Park is a public park (Zuccotti is privately owned but publicly accessible), and theoretically protesters won’t be allowed to stay past sunset.
One representative told the Post that the group didn’t plan on testing the curfew, but another says they “plan to stay… and form a second permanent occupation.” The NYPD said it hadn’t issued any permits for today’s rally.
An Egyptian activist named Mohammed Ezzeldin explained what he saw was the connection between Occupy Wall Street and the protests against Hosni Mubarak.
“I am coming from there — from the Arab Spring. From the Arab Spring to the fall of Wall Street,” Ezzeldin said, his voice echoed by the crowd of thousands. “From Liberation Squareto Washington Square, to the fall of Wall Street and market domination, and capitalist domination.”
“Many things separate us,” he said. “National borders. Homeland insecurities. Armies, corporations and police. They have their laws. They have their debts. And we have our revolution. We are the 99 percent.”
His passionate speech, which even included a reference to Karl Marx, made a startling comparison between what happened inEgyptearlier this year and what is now happening in the United States.
Ezzeldin, a 28-year-old self-described “leftist activist” who is currently living in Jackson Heights and studying at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, told that he was camped out in Tahrir Square just a few months ago and is now spending days in Zuccotti Park.
“There are some differences,” he said, but he believes “any success for the struggle in theUnited Statesis helpful for the rest of the world.”
The protesters are angry about the 2008 Wall Streetbailout that they say allowed banks to reap huge profits while average Americans suffered high unemployment and job insecurity.
The demonstrators are also campaigning against other social and economic inqualities, including the gap between rich and poor, as well as what they regard as a corrupt political system.