Editor: This article from the NY Times is a fairly even-handed account of November 17th actions around the country. Despite any mention of Occupy San Diego activities (see other posts on our website for those), it does cover the other major “Day of Action” events.
Hundreds Arrested in Actions Targeting Wall Street, Banks and Bridges
By Katharine Q. Seelye/ New York Times / November 18, 2011
Protesters across the country demonstrated en masse Thursday, snarling rush-hour traffic in several major cities and taking aim at banks as part of a national “day of action” to mark the two-month milestone of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
While thousands of protesters clogged the streets in New York and more than 175 people were arrested in clashes with the police, demonstrators elsewhere in the country were largely peaceful, even as the crowds swelled during the evening commute.
Union workers, students, unemployed people and local residents joined the crowds in many cities, adding to a core of Occupy protesters. Among them were members of an umbrella group called the American Dream movement, which represents several unions and social justice groups, who staged protests on or near old, crumbling bridges.
Andy McDonald, a spokesman for the group, said the bridges were meant to highlight the economic emergencies facing many cities, which cannot afford to fix such important parts of their infrastructure. At various points during the day, bridges were blocked in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Hartford and Portland, Ore. The biggest event of the day culminated during the evening commute on the Brooklyn Bridge.
But the precise symbolism of bridges was often muddled, as activists also decried banking practices, called for more jobs and demanded a narrowing of the divide between the richest 1 percent of the population and the other 99 percent.
The protests came at a precarious time for the movement. Cities have been cracking down on the squatters in the Occupy movement, some of whom seem more preoccupied with the fact of their protests than with the future of any movement.
In Los Angeles, demonstrators blocked the Fourth Street bridge near the downtown financial district. More than 20 people were arrested after they ignored an order to vacate the streets. They marched from a Bank of America branch in the morning and set up tents in the middle of Figueroa Street. There were about 1,000 protesters on hand and about 100 police officers, making it perhaps the biggest march yet of Occupy Los Angeles. After the arrests, the crowd quickly dispersed. Lt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles police called the protesters “peaceful.”
In Chicago, where Occupy protesters were never allowed to set up camp in Grant Park, the movement’s presence has thinned dramatically since the temperature has dropped in recent weeks. On some nights, fewer than a half dozen protesters remain, pacing the sidewalk across the street from the Federal Reserve Bank downtown, where they have anchored their efforts for 56 days.
But on Thursday afternoon, despite the harsh winds and 30-degree chill, hundreds of protesters re-emerged for the largest showing in Chicago in weeks. Those in the crowd, including members of unions and other advocacy groups, chanted “Shut it down!” as they marched to the LaSalle Street Bridge, which spans the Chicago River just north of downtown. The police had already diverted traffic and emptied the bridge by the time the protesters arrived. Still, 46 protesters were arrested after they sat cross-legged in the middle of the bridge before the rest of the crowd continued their march through the city, flooding intersections and streets around the Federal Reserve Bank and the Chicago Board of Trade.
“Day to day we might be thinning because we have no encampment,” said Andy Manos, who helped organize the marches, adding that just because some protesters have gone indoors at night doesn’t mean they have gone away. “But this is a mobile occupation. This is a model that works for us.”
In Philadelphia, a few hundred people marched across the Market Street Bridge. A row of people, most of them unemployed, sat across the bridge linking arms and wearing signs that said “Willing to Work” around their necks. About two dozen people were arrested.
Earlier, about 75 members of Occupy Philly met in a Quaker meetinghouse to discuss how to respond if they were forced to leave their encampment in front of City Hall. The city had posted notices that the activists should leave because a planned construction project was “imminent.”
But the group did not make a decision about what to do, leading some to express frustration that the movement was becoming mired in logistics rather than expressing a coherent message.
“How do we make a point about why we’re here?” said Markus Schlotterbeck, 23. “We need to take the high road and make this about bigger issues.”
In Seattle, about 900 marchers shut down University Bridge, near the University of Washington, on Thursday evening. Earlier in the day, the Occupy Seattle encampment was quiet, save for the sounds of a three-person kitchen staff serving up dollops of instant oatmeal to the few who were awake.
Stephan Lee, 26, wearing a black pea coat and his hair in a ponytail, said that about 30 people had agreed to “stick it out, no matter what happens.” He said he had hitchhiked to Seattle from Great Falls, Mont., two months ago, and found that the movement in Seattle had become more organized since he arrived.
“People are getting a better bead on what’s going on and are learning to communicate better with each other,” he said. “We’re realizing that we have a common goal, even if we all have different messages.” That goal, he said, is to uphold American values.
Maria Guillen, 25, said the cold and rain had not hurt morale. “We are creating this movement little by little, as a people, as a collective,” she said. “We can’t say what will happen tomorrow.”
In California, protesters with Occupy Oakland, where the police have used tear gas to quell sharp confrontations, chose not to participate in Thursday’s call to action, shifting their next planned protest instead to Saturday in an effort to “continue this national momentum,” the group said on its Web site.
“Through a day of coordinated actions, we can demonstrate and build upon the potential that the Occupy movement holds in fighting the ruling authorities,” the group said.
In Dallas, there was no violence, but at least 17 people were arrested after police officers on horseback and in riot gear evicted Occupy protesters from a site near City Hall where they had been camping for the past six weeks.
In Portland, Ore., demonstrators gathered in the pouring rain on the east side of the Steel Bridge, the primary transit hub for the city. But their main focus was on the banks, including Bank of America and Chase. They held a sit-in at a Wells Fargo lobby. About 500 stood outside chanting: “We got sold out. Banks got bailed out.” Protesters lined the glass windows while police officers in riot gear stood inside in a row, shielding from view a small group of bank employees.
“You’re sexy, you’re cute. Take off your riot suit!” the crowd chanted. About 45 people were arrested.
The crowd included young and old, people from all stripes, and gained momentum and supporters as it marched. A 30-year-old woman who asked not to be identified said she was out for a run when the protesters passed by. She joined them in support, she said, “because we need a wake-up call.”
Emma Cornell, 57, a former prison educator now teaching courses online, said she drove to Portland from Lakeview, Ore., about five hours away. Until now, Ms. Cornell said, she had followed the movement on Twitter and through small demonstrations in her tiny community, where local Occupy supporters are searching for common ground with resident Tea Party activists. She said the groups differed over whether the solution to the country’s problems would involve more government regulation or less.
In Eugene, Ore., about 110 miles south, Occupy protests at banks drew about 200 to 300 people and the police arrested 17 demonstrators on charges of civil disobedience, according to KOIN 6, a CBS affiliate in Portland.
In Denver, about 100 protesters marched through the city, massing at various government buildings and snarling traffic at busy intersections. Flanked by mounted police officers, wide-eyed tourists and Broncos fans who had already gathered at downtown bars in advance of Thursday night’s game against the Jets, the protesters shouted, “This is what democracy looks like” as they marched.
Jack Kelsh, 47, a city bus driver who had come downtown to join the protesters, said: “I don’t think anything is going to stop this. The more resistance they get, the stronger they are going to get and the more rallies you are going to see.”
Reporting was contributed by Dan Frosch from Denver; Ian Lovett from Los Angeles; Isolde Raftery from Seattle; Lee van der Voo from Portland, Ore.; Sean Collins Walsh from Philadelphia; Malia Wollan from Berkeley, Calif.; and Steven Yaccino from Chicago.