More than 200 arrests, hours of protest and one trip to Harlem marked the two-month anniversary since the Occupy Wall Street movement took over Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan and sparked worldwide demonstrations in solidarity. The day began with a morning march on Wall Street, billed by participants as a way to "shut down Wall Street." That did not happen. Instead protesters were met by police in riot gear. The city said that seven officers were injured and most of the day's arrests took place there.
Earl Bell, an architect who works as a consultant for a firm on Wall Street and is not part of the protest, told The Root he understands why the protest is necessary. "The founding of this country was based on protest. I think sometimes this is like a more unpleasant side of so-called democracy." Still others working on Wall Street just called it "unpleasant."
Later in the day demonstrators, who call themselves the 99 percent (a reference to those Americans who are not among the top 1 percent of income earners), fanned out across all five boroughs of New York City to take their message of "income equality" and "anti-greed" directly to the people. The effort was dubbed "Occupy the Subway," and there was even a stop in Harlem at 125th Street.
Getting more blacks involved in Occupy Wall Street is something that Chris Reider, 49, has been trying to do. You might call him an accidental Occupy Wall Streeter. Sitting in Zuccotti Park, he told me that he had lost his job as an assistant manager at Home Depot, and then one day in September, during the early days of the occupation, he walked past the park. The next day he moved in.
That decision is something that Reider says his working-class black family doesn't completely support, but "I feel it in my heart," he adds, so much so that he even got arrested in the first mass march across the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1, when more than 700 were arrested.
While Reider sees the advantage of an education, protester Coreale Jones, 20, who is also black, has put her education on hold to take part in Occupy Wall Street. When I asked her about the wisdom of that decision, she said, "Some people would say no, some people would say yes. I say, in my own opinion, I think it's a smart move … if I wasn't here, I wouldn't be satisfied with myself." Jones adds she can always go back to school.
She says that she's passionate about the movement's message of economic equality, but she has avoided getting arrested. Jones heeded the call by police to evacuate Zuccotti Park before Tuesday's early-morning police raid that cleared it of tents and sleeping bags, an action that the courts have upheld.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, Jones and Reider were among the thousands of people, including union members, who rallied in and around Foley Square in Manhattan. A group of demonstrators wearing "99 Percent" T-shirts — including New York City Council members Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez — were arrested during a sit-in at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Later, marchers crossed the pedestrian walkway of the bridge into Brooklyn, in what was a mainly peaceful demonstration.
Willie White, 39, came straight from his shift as a food preparer at Whole Foods. He told The Root that it was his first Occupy Wall Street protest and he did it "to show solidarity with the 99 percent and support the movement." It was also the first time health care worker Sherril Christian, 54, marched with Occupy Wall Street. She joined other union members from 1199SEIU and said the 99 percent "are our brothers and sisters; we have to support them."
While Occupy Wall Street participants have vowed to continue, it is unclear where the movement is ultimately headed. Members have always said "it's not a protest, but a process."
Reider, who now sleeps at another space set up for protesters, said that without the tents and sleeping bags, Zuccotti Park will go back to the roots of the movement, and that movement will go on.
Julie Walker, a freelance reporter in New York, has covered aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement since the beginning.