The international movement that sparked Twitter’s #99% handle demanding economic responsibility from big bankers celebrated a milestone on Monday. On September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street started at Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park with an idea that working class people should unite against a common 1 percent enemy. On Monday, the movement came together once again to spread their message and invigorate the masses.
Having prepared for the one-year anniversary with a weekend of events across the city, Occupiers started the day by attempting to barricade the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at 7 a.m. The NYPD was also prepared, though, blocking off the exchange and its surrounding areas hours beforehand. According to reports, there were more than 180 arrests for disorderly conduct. Still, the diverse crowd of veterans, teachers, students, community organizers, and average joes would not be deterred.
Members of the Robin Hood Tax campaign, a collective fighting to increase taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent and investment firms, held a small rally near the NYSE around 1 p.m.
“It’s really not fair when the rich can afford to pay more taxes than the lower income people,” said Tatiana Nobles, a Robin Hood Tax member. Motioning to a nearby cut-out whale with a message slamming JP Morgan Chase‘s recent $6 billion in trading losses, Nobles called the bankers “thieves.”
“They’re the real thieves of this economy. The $6 billion that was lost in one day for trading — that’s kind of one thing that we’re not a fan of.”
“They are the ones that gambled with our money, and what they did is lose all the money,” chimed in Elizabeth Owens, affiliated with Vocal New York, a grassroots organization for low-income people affected by HIV.
“It’s about time that the 1 percent start paying their fair share of taxes. We [are] tired of sitting up there watching communities not get proper health care. Jobs are being cut. Schools are being cut. How dare you think that we should be able to survive if you takin’ all this away from us.”
Meanwhile Occupiers chanted, “We have the right to be here!” “Chase broke the law!” and “Arrest Chase!” using the “People’s Mic” shortly before the NYPD made their ominous presence felt.
Officers repeatedly forced protestors away from the area, citing it as private property. One man was arrested in the fracas and a photographer was knocked to the floor while snapping photos. Another man who went in to the street against the police’s wishes was immediately chased toward William Street by a sea of blue and white.
Watch video of an arrest as well as a photographer being knocked to the ground by the NYPD here:
“I think it’s entirely unnecessary police brutality,” said Brandon, an Occupier, while officers harassed two protestors on an adjacent sidewalk . “There were at least 50 police officers following one man. It was completely unnecessary. [It was] totally a blatant disregard of any humanity, honestly.”
The congregation eventually stopped at Hanover Square to march before a building owned by Knight Capital, the largest trading group on Wall Street.
Nearby, another group of Occupiers marched along Trinity Place holding up a Statue of Liberty figure with a banner marked, “The People’s Puppets.” The leaders placed a popular spin on an old classic, singing, “When the banks come crashing down.” A few minutes later, they arrived at Liberty Plaza, the epicenter of the worldwide movement.
“We were trying to think of a large visual that everyone could agree on, whether you’re a cop, whether you’re an Occupier, whether you’re a banker,” said Joe Therrien, one of the people holding up the figure. “Everyone agrees that this country stands for freedom. So we made Liberty to show that’s what we’re about too. We want freedom in this country.”
Zuccotti Park was filled with as many people as during its encampment days. Music filled the air along with signs lining the ground. An inflated “debt boulder” stood near one entrance, inviting people to write down how much they owed in loans. Spirited discussions about the economy and how to fix it returned to where it all began one year ago.
Even with the obstacles they faced, protestors found time to poke fun at the world’s inequalities. The “Tax Dodgers” baseball team sang rousing odes to the 1 percent, while two Occupiers wearing President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney masks satirized both presidential candidates as anti-working class. They also reflected on a year gone by since Occupy was birthed.
“We had a lot of concern and anxiety about today, ” Therrien continued. “Whether we’d have the numbers, whether we’d have the spirit. How rough the cops were gonna get. But the feeling, the solidarity, the vitality, — this movement needs to happen. There’s no other large movements standing up, calling out the economic and social injustice that’s rampant right now.”
“It feels really good to have the park this full again, that’s for sure, said Daniel Plag, a former architect student at City College. “To have 2,000 here, that’s full.”
For Tad Hess, a disabled carpenter who came here all the way from Portland, Ore., the movement is still going strong, no matter what the pundits say.
“Maybe the numbers aren’t the same, but the numbers just don’t count,” Hess opined. “Sometimes it’s a matter of the connections that are here. There’s people here from all over the country, just like me. And we represent thousands of people each, you know? So this isn’t just these people in this park. This is people in Portland, people in Boston, people down in Florida. So no, it’s not dead.”
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