They’ve amassed mounds of blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, cans of food, medical and hygienic supplies – even oddities like a box of knitting wool and 20 pairs of swimming goggles (to shield protesters from pepper-spray attacks). Supporters are shipping about 300 boxes a day.
Close to $300,000 in cash also has been donated, through the movement’s website and by people who give money in person at the park, said Bill Dobbs, a press liaison for Occupy Wall Street. The movement has an account at Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as “the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States.”
President Barack Obama referred to the protests at Sunday’s dedication of a monument for Martin Luther King Jr., saying the civil rights leader “would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement stared down city officials to hang on to its makeshift headquarters, showed its muscle Saturday with a big Times Square demonstration and found legions of activists demonstrating in solidarity across the country and around the world.
At the same time, there are signs of confidence, but also signs of tension among the demonstrators at Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the movement that began a month ago Monday.
They have trouble agreeing on things like whether someone can bring in a sleeping bag, and show little sign of uniting on any policy issues. Some protesters eventually want the movement to rally around a goal, while others insist that isn’t the point.
The Wall Street protesters’ lack of leadership and focus on consensus-building has help bring together people with different perspectives, but it’s also created some tension.
“Issues are arising – like who is bringing in sleeping bags without permission,” said Laurie Dobson, who’s been helping a self-governed “working group” called “SIS” – for Shipping, Inventory and Supplies.
Sleeping bags were among items cited by Zuccotti Park’s owner, Brookfield Properties, as not allowed on the premises – along with tents, tarps and other essentials for the encampment. By Sunday, all those items were back.
Even if the protesters were barred from camping in Zuccotti Park, as the property owner and the city briefly threatened to do last week, the movement would continue, said one of the partisipants. He said activists were working with legal experts to identify alternate sites where the risk of getting kicked out would be relatively low.
While on the streets, moments of madness occasionally erupt in the protest crowd – accompanied by whiffs of marijuana, grungy clothing and disarray – order prevails at the storage site.
“We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” Kara Segal and other volunteers chanted in the building lobby as they arrived to help unpack and sort items, preparing them to be rolled out to the park.
A lot of U.S. cities large and small were “occupied” over the weekend: Washington, D.C., Fairbanks, Alaska, Burlington, Vt., Rapid City, S.D., and Cheyenne, Wyo. were just a few.
More than 70 New York protesters were arrested Saturday, more than 40 of them in Times Square. About 175 people were arrested in Chicago after they refused to leave a park where they were camped late Saturday, and there were about 100 arrests in Arizona – 53 in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix – after protesters refused police orders to disperse.
About two dozen people were arrested in Denver, and in Sacramento, Calif., anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was among about 20 people arrested after failing to follow police orders to disperse.
Many of the largest of Saturday’s protests were in Europe, where those involved in long-running demonstrations against austerity measures declared common cause with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In Rome, hundreds of rioters infiltrated a march by tens of thousands of demonstrators, causing what the mayor estimated was at least euro1 million ($1.4 million) in damage to city property. [via Huff Post]