NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds of protesters and dozens of cops faced off briefly on Thursday afternoon at Zuccotti Park after cops told a group of protesters to stop drumming.
“Why don’t you stop being cops for Thanksgiving?” yelled one protester.
“Why don’t you arrest the drummers in the Thanksgiving parade?” hollered another.
A van rolled up with more officers, but they hung back. The protesters, part of anti-Wall Street movement that has gripped a nation consumed by economic despair, held an impromptu forum and decided to call off the drumming.
The noisy standoff ended, and the protesters returned to their meal digging into turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce as the Occupy Wall Street camp in lower Manhattan celebrated Thanksgiving.
About 500 demonstrators lined up in Zuccotti Park at a rack loaded with meals, served in plastic trays wrapped with brown paper.
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Freddy Snair, of Staten Island, said he’s thankful this holiday for his new Occupy Wall Street family and the dozens of volunteers who have donated food and their time.
“You know I want to thank those people over there because they’re so nice here at Occupy Wall Street even though the movement is not here anymore, the people are still here with their hearts and I respect that,” Snair said.
“So many people have given up so much to come and be a part of the movement because there is really that much dire need for community,” said Megan Hayes, a chef and organizer with the Occupy Wall Street Kitchen in New York. “We decided to take this holiday opportunity to provide just that — community.”
She said some 3,000 meals were distributed.
The movement’s slogan, “We are the 99,” refers to the growing wealth gap between the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and the remaining 99.
The movement was triggered by the high rate of unemployment and foreclosures, as well as the growing perception that big banks and corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, yet are taking in huge bonuses while most Americans have seen their incomes drop.
Volunteer Haywood Carey of Chapel Hill, N.C., says restaurants and individual donors prepared the meals.
As the crowd ate, a bongo player and a guitarist played the spiritual “Let it Shine.”
Carey called the celebration a sign of Americans’ shared values, despite the nation’s mixed opinions about the Occupy movement.
He says the “things that bind us together” are greater than the “things that divide.”
Another pair of protesters also brought their instruments and performed cheerful songs for their fellow volunteers.
“The music brings people together and it raises their spirits,” Paul Stein said. “Certainly, we need it all year round, but on Thanksgiving Day, we especially need it today.”
Kent Johnson, 65, a lawyer from Oklahoma City, came by to see the protest while visiting his daughter in Manhattan. He brought a pumpkin pie and an apple pie to donate.
“We wanted to come down and support the Occupy people for Thanksgiving,” Johnson said. “Somebody finally needs to blow the whistle and call attention to the way things work in this country.”
Demonstrators say they are protesting corporate greed and the concentration of wealth in the upper 1 percent of the population.
On Thursday, protester Chris Coon wandered the park in a Santa Claus suit carrying a list of “naughty” people that included former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Bank of America foreclosed on the North Pole, then I flew here in my sleigh and the NYPD towed my sleigh,” said Coon’s “Santa.” “So now I’m here in Zuccotti Park protesting the 1 percent.”
Some said Thursday’s meal was a sign that the Zuccotti Park protesters were there to stay despite the new restrictions on their demonstration.
“The community building that has happened here is central to why this movement has been able to keep up the momentum,” said Nancy Ordover, 45, who works for a nonprofit group. “I think this may be one of those meaningful community moments for many people.”
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