Thousands Participate In Occupy Wall Street Protests
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The Occupy Wall Street movement saw mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country yesterday. In cities including Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Portland, occupiers were marking the second month of their movement. Dozens were arrested at a rally in Los Angeles and even more in New York City, where protesters tried to shut down Wall Street. NPR's Margot Adler reports.
MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: There were more than 200 arrests in New York City. Protesters tried to march to the New York Stock Exchange. Steel police barricades blocked them, and made it almost impossible to navigate the narrow canyons of the financial district.
Traffic came to a standstill; entry to offices required building IDs. A few violent incidents left some protesters and some police injured. At one point, I interviewed a retired Philadelphia police officer in his dress blues, only to watch him arrested minutes later.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD NOISES)
ADLER: This is a retired policeman that I just interviewed; they are walking off with him in handcuffs.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference that several police officers were injured by glass and thrown liquids, perhaps vinegar. He said there were minimal disruptions, and most protesters acted responsibly.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: But those that break the law, those that try to assault other people, particularly our first responders, are going to be arrested.
ADLER: During the afternoon, hundreds of students rallied at Union Square, saying that education was a right, not a privilege; that education should be...
CROWD: (Chanting) As free as air and water.
ADLER: ...as free as air and water. Below them, Occupy Wall Street protesters were going into subway stations and onto trains. Tom L., as he called himself, was handing out the Occupy Wall Street Journal. Were people making comments?
TOM L.: They are just reading, for now. Here we are in the subway, just seeing who is receptive, and trying to smile and share ideas.
ADLER: But inside the trains, Occupy Wall Street groups were using the people's microphone.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mike check.
CROWD: Mike check.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We wish you...
CROWD: We wish you...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...a good afternoon.
CROWD: ...a good afternoon.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And we welcome...
CROWD: And we welcome...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: NYPD's finest...
CROWD: NYPD's finest...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...to keep peace on our train.
CROWD: ...to keep peace on our train.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Greetings, officer.
CROWD: Greetings, officer.
ADLER: Then they told the passengers their stories.
CHUCK: My name is Chuck.
CROWD: My name is Chuck.
CHUCK: ...I just got laid off from my job.
CROWD: ...I just got laid off from my job.
CHUCK: I had to move back in with my parents...
CROWD: I had to move back in with my parents...
CHUCK: I am 25.
CROWD: I am 25.
ADLER: Then they asked people in the train to speak about their economic troubles. But the passengers, perhaps overwhelmed, did not want to talk. In the evening, thousands of Occupy Wall Street supporters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Two dozen people were arrested for blocking traffic at the beginning, but the huge march was largely peaceful. Greg Lundahl is from Manhattan.
GREG LUNDAHL: Tonight, there are too many of us to arrest.
ADLER: By days end, there were ticked-off taxi drivers, upset businessmen delayed in getting to work, and galvanized protesters convinced their movement will be sustainable.
But Chang Ju was standing on the sidewalk, near Wall Street, wide-eyed, carrying luggage on his back. He had just arrived from South Korea minutes before.
CHANG JU: It's awesome. It is a revolution, I think. It is like...
ADLER: Is this your first time – your first day in New York City?
CHANG: Yeah, yeah, ever.
ADLER: Oh my God.
CHANG: Oh my God, yeah. I never seen this kind of things in my lifetime.
ADLER: And a lot of other people hadn't, either.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.