Occupy Wall Street Activists Differ On Organization’s Direction
NEW YORK (AP) — A day after police broke up a rally at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and arrested dozens, Occupy Wall Street protesters said Sunday that their movement for economic justice would pick up momentum with the spring.
Activists listed issues including student debt, the environment and the November elections as priorities going forward. But some observers who watched workers hose down the now-barricaded park that was Occupy’s home wondered whether a movement so diffuse could accomplish anything.
“I’m really grateful to be part of a generation that wants change, ’cause we should all want change,” said Jennifer Campbell, a graduate student in documentary filmmaking at Hofstra University. “But I’m not sure what that change is, or if they know what that change is.”
The crackdown at Zuccotti happened late Saturday after hundreds of activists had gathered to mark the sixth-month birthday of the movement.
“There was a lot of silliness and just kind of singing and dancing and really very jovial,” said Chris Casuccio, who works for a nonprofit organization. “We had some banners up. There was one tarp that was up but it was tiny. It could fit like five people under it.”
But Detective Brian Sessa of the NYPD said protesters had started breaking park rules against setting up tents and tarps.
Police said 73 people were detained. It was unclear how many were still in custody Sunday.
Occupy activists said the officers moved in with little warning and beat some protesters. Police said Sunday they had no information about any protesters being injured.
“They just came in swinging batons,” said protester Sandra Nurse. She said a woman began having a seizure and another protester’s head was “smashed into a building window.”
Casuccio said protesters had little time to leave Zuccotti if they wanted to avoid arrest. “They gave us one quick warning and then just came in, hundreds of people,” he said.
Police did not immediately answer calls and emails Sunday seeking a response to the accusations of brutality.
As cleaning crews used hoses to erase all signs of the clash on Sunday, Occupy activists offered differing perspectives on where the movement is headed.
“We’re going to keep going,” said Christopher Guerra, who has spent many nights at Zuccotti since the movement started last Sept. 17. He added, “It’s going to get interesting during the election cycle. We’re going to be more of a presence in the political world. I know we have a couple of people running for office.”
According to Mother Jones magazine, 10 candidates for House and Senate seats in the November elections have made Occupy part of their campaigns. They include Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and Hakeem Jeffries, who is running for Congress in Brooklyn. But some Occupy supporters consider themselves anarchists who abjure electoral politics.
Nurse, a member of Occupy’s direct action working group, said she expects college students will have “a huge role to play this summer organizing around student debt.” She noted that the issue resonates both with students and with their parents and has the potential to broaden the movement.
Ted Schulman, an Occupy protester who lives near Zuccotti, said his focus is the upcoming United Nation Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. He said he wants to “challenge the U.N. on what their vision of a green economy is.”
Harlem resident Kanene Holder said the movement is broader than any one issue. “This is not a beauty pageant,” she said. “We cannot homogenize this movement into one streamlined vision.”
Tourists streamed by Zuccotti on their way to the nearby World Trade Center site on Sunday, and some said they were not familiar with Occupy Wall Street. “We’re from Colorado,” a teenager in a tour group explained.
Brian Cummings of Columbus Junction, Iowa, said he did know about it.
“I understand the Occupy movement,” Cummings said. “I understand a lot of people’s frustration. I’m not sure how effective it is. … Nothing seems to be being accomplished.”
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