Sunday, September 16, 2012

Occupy Wall St activists to surround NYSE in effort to regain impetus

Group, which struggled to maintain momentum after initial flurry last autumn, to celebrate one-year anniversary on Monday


Activists plan to mark the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on Monday by descending on New York's financial district in an attempt to rejuvenate a movement that has failed to sustain momentum after initially sparking a national conversation about economic inequality.

The group, which popularized the phrase "We are the 99%," will attempt to surround the New York Stock Exchange and disrupt morning rush hour in lower Manhattan, according to a movement spokeswoman.

Monday's protests will cap a weekend of Occupy seminars, music and demonstrations in New York, said Linnea Paton, 24, an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) spokeswoman. Demonstrations are also planned in other US cities, other OWS organizers said.

The grassroots movement caught the world by surprise last fall with a spontaneous encampment in lower Manhattan that soon spread to cities across North America and Europe.

Occupy briefly revived a long-dormant spirit of US social activism, and drew enduring attention to economic injustice.

But the movement's colorful cast of theatrical demonstrators struggled through last winter to sustain the momentum that first drew attention to its patchwork of economic grievances – including corporate malfeasance on Wall Street, crippling student debt and aggressive bank foreclosures on American homes.

On Sunday, organizers will provide live music, including a Foley Square concert featuring Tom Morello, guitarist for the rock band Rage Against the Machine.

At 7am Monday, some protesters will try to surround the NYSE, while others will engage in a loosely choreographed series of "sit-ins" at intersections throughout the financial district, according to OWS's website.

The tactics are designed to undermine New York police efforts to contain protesters on the narrow, winding streets of the financial district.

Last year's demonstrations featured the spectacle of activists breaking into sudden dashes down one narrow street or another, pursued by visibly frustrated police and television reporters tripping down cobblestone streets.

Sound permits for Sunday's events have been secured, Paton said, but OWS has not sought permits for Monday's protests - which last fall led to mass arrests and clashes between police and protesters. Occupy Wall Street maintains about $50,000 in its bail fund, several organizers said.

NYPD spokesman Paul Brown confirmed that no OWS demonstration permit applications were submitted, but said police will be prepared for demonstrations.

"We accommodate peaceful protests and make arrests for unlawful activity," he said.

Brown said that based on previous experience with OWS, the NYPD expects that "a relatively small group of self-described anarchists will attempt unlawful activity and try to instigate confrontations with police by others while attempting to escape arrest themselves … we expect most demonstrators to be peaceful."

New York police have made a total of 1,852 Occupy arrests as of September 12 according to Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance's office, including the arrest of 700 protesters who spilled into the roadway while marching across the Brooklyn bridge last October.

On Friday, Twitter was ordered by a New York judge to turn over the tweets of one of the protesters arrested on the bridge. That case has emerged as a closely watched court fight over law enforcement access to users' social media content.

Six weeks after the Brooklyn bridge arrests, citing public health concerns, New York authorities entered the Manhattan OWS camp and dispersed protesters. The movement has never regained its initial momentum.

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