Photo by Emmanuel Dunand for AFP/Getty Images
UPDATE: The “Millionaires March” in New York appeared on track to pass without major incident Tuesday, but "Occupy" protests in other cities are gearing up for long standoffs with city authorities.
On a day when protesters in New York branched out from their Zuccotti Park base camp to hector tycoons like Rupert Murdoch and David Koch at their uptown homes (see post below), those in several other cities said they’re digging in for the long haul.
- From an Associated Press story published Tuesday in the Boston Globe: “Protesters from the Occupy Boston movement vowed to continue their demonstration indefinitely despite the arrests of 129 people who police say refused to leave a plot of downtown land.
- The headline on an AP piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Seattle mayor ‘patient’ with protesters in park."
- A headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Occupy Atlanta unlikely to be forced out of park.”
While Democratic leaders continued their efforts to tap the protests’ energy, a prominent Republican backed off from his harsh criticism of them. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who denounced the demonstrators as “mobs” last week, took a more sympathetic tack at a press conference Tuesday. He was quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “People are upset and they are justifiably frustrated. They’re out of work. The economy is not moving. Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid and I get it,” he said.
Still, he tried hard to draw a distinction between the current liberal protests and the conservative Tea Party movement. From the Times: “The tea party were very different. The tea party were individuals attempting to address their grievance from the government they elected,” Cantor said. Occupy Wall Street protesters “are pitting themselves against others outside government in America. That’s a difference.”
Not that the Occupy Wall Street protests aren’t clashing with the government in their own way. Activists on Tuesday posted a video of protesters in Boston chanting, “We are veterans of the United States of America” as police handcuffed them:
UPDATE on Tuesday at 11:24 a.m.: Occupy the Upper East Side?
Protesters in New York are planning a march Tuesday afternoon on the uptown homes of several of the city’s billionaires, including conservative moneybags David Koch and Rupert Murdoch. Others on the itinerary are JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, hedge fund manager John Paulson, and developer Howard Milstein, CNN Money reports. Organizers said they’re targeting the men for their “willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99 percent.”
The plan is to hop the subway to 59th Street and walk from there beginning shortly after noon. A spokesman said the protesters don’t have a permit but are planning to use the sidewalks rather than block traffic in the streets.
They’ll have to hope for a better reception than their counterparts in Boston got when they tried to branch out from their authorized base. Occupy Boston protesters occupied a park in the heart of the city Monday night, and police occupied it right back. By Tuesday morning, 100 of the demonstrators were occupying jail cells.
The arrests came after the demonstrators’ campground spilled over from Dewey Square onto the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a ribbon of lawn running atop an underground highway built in the Big Dig. Police had warned protesters to stay off the newly renovated sections of the greenway or risk arrest, the Boston Globe reports. At about 1:20 a.m. Tuesday, they made good on the threat, lining up in riot gear and surrounding the protesters. From the Globe:
Police Superintendent William Evans and Commissioner Edward F. Davis watched from across the street. Evans gave the crowd two minutes to disperse, warning that they would be locked up if they did not comply. The crowd, energized by the sudden appearance of the Boston and transit police officers, chanted, ‘‘The people united will never be defeated,’’ “This is a peaceful protest,” and “The whole world is watching.’’
About 10 minutes later, the first officers entered the park and surrounded the group. Evans, using a loudspeaker, gave one more warning and then each protester was individually put on his or her stomach, cable-tied, and dragged off as other officers tore down tents and arrested and detained people on the fringe of the park.
In a statement, Occupy Boston said police had “brutally attacked” its members, making no distinction between activists, medics, and legal observers. No one was seriously injured, however.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino stood by the arrests, saying that while he sympathized with the protesters’ goals, “civil disobedience will not be tolerated.” It's similar to the line New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took on Monday (see original post below).
ORIGINAL POST on Oct. 10, 5:15 p.m.: Anyone hoping the Occupy Wall Street protests would just go away should probably start hoping for something more realistic.
On a day when rapper Kanye West and talk show host Al Sharpton dropped by the protest’s New York headquarters, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the demonstrators they’re free to stay as long as they want, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The bottom line is, people want to express themselves,” Bloomberg said Monday, while getting ready to March in a Columbus Day Parade. “And as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to. If they break the laws, then we’re going to do what we’re supposed to do: enforce the laws.”
So how long does he think they’ll stay? “I think part of it has probably to do with the weather,” the New York mayor said.
On a sunny Columbus Day in New York, the crowds showed no sign of tiring, especially with bigshots like West and Sharpton on the scene. NBC New York reports West toured the encampment and shook hands, but didn’t perform. New York magazine poked at the irony of West wearing gold chains to a demonstration that targets wealth inequality. Alongside him was hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, whose net worth is $340 million, according to a recent profile in CNN Money.
The media spotlight continued to shine as well, with Sharpton broadcasting his nationally syndicated radio show from the scene of the demonstrations Monday. He was no detached observer, CNN reports.
"We are here today because we agree 1 percent should not be controlling the (nation's) wealth," Sharpton said on the show. "These are regular people trying to feed their families, trying to pay their rent and mortgages, trying to survive."
The New York protests aren’t the only ones going strong. Monday saw demonstrations increasing in size around the country, and not just in big cities. From “Occupy Fort Collins” (Colorado) to “Occupy Fort Myers” (Florida) to “Occupy Fort Worth” (Texas), the trend seems to be catching on pretty much everywhere.
Not all cities are sure they want to give the demonstrators the leeway that Bloomberg has offered them in New York. The Denver Post reports that a cluster of tents near the state capitol in that city doubled from about 10 to 20 overnight despite warnings from the Colorado State Patrol that tents would not be prohibited. The patrol doesn’t have plans to remove the tents so far, an official told the Post, but it’s “monitoring the situation.” The encampment has begun to attract homeless people, the article notes, and one source complained of the smell.
While the protests have spread across the country, the battle over their meaning is raging in Washington, D.C., where Democrats are working to capitalize on them much as Republicans adopted the Tea Party movement. CBS News reports that a campaign official for Congressional Democrats sent out an email to supporters blasting Republican House leader Eric Cantor for referring to the protesters as “mobs.” From CBS:
"Mobs? That must be what Republicans refer to as the middle class, or maybe the millions of unemployed Americans across the country," the email says. It asks Democratic supporters to "send a message" to Republican leadership and sign a DCCC petition to "help us reach 100,000 strong standing with #OccupyWallStreet protestors."
Fox News reports that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has also hit back at Cantor. "I didn't hear him say anything when the Tea Party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol, and he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them," she told ABC's "This Week."
On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed support for the middle class while distancing himself from the “class warfare” of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “Look, I’m not running for the rich people,” Romney said at a town-hall meeting in Milford, N.H., according to the Washington Post. “Rich people can take care of themselves. They’re doing just fine. I’m running for middle-class Americans…. I want to help the people who’ve been hurt by the Obama economy.”
Will the protests have any real impact? The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg says it’s too early to tell. But, he adds, it has already become “one of the city’s most interesting bargain tourist destinations.”