Tens of Thousands March on Wall Street
Protest in New York attracts students, teachers, and unions
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of downtown New York Wednesday to protest economic inequality and other issues. The march and rally was organized by Occupy Wall Street. That group was joined by some of America's largest unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, the United Auto Workers, Transit Workers United, and the AFL-CIO.
The march began at Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street has been camped out in a three-week long protest. The park is located near Ground Zero. From there, protesters marched to Foley Square, where they met up with members of the unions.
The rally at Foley Square attracted between 10,000 and 20,000 people, according to organizers. These ranged from young adults to middle-aged professionals to young children.
Not everyone was there to protest the same thing. Some came to protest cuts to education spending. Others came to rally for universal health care. But most were there to protest a system that, they say, has grown too unequal. "We are the 99 percent" was a common rallying cry. This referred to the notion that the top one percent of the nation's population controls the majority of wealth in the country, which is bad for the rest of the 99 percent of the population.
"The one percent are the managers, the CEOs, and the leaders and heads of all the companies that take our money," high school senior Matthew Taylor told the Kids Press Corps. "I joined [the protest] because I have a college fund like any other high school senior and it's gone, down the drain. And I find that I am not going to have enough money to go to college."
Taylor added that he didn't think the movement will last, but he "hopes we can get something done."
David from Brooklyn came to the rally with his four children.
"It's time to put a stop to all the unfairness that the banks on Wall Street have put on the whole world, not just the United States," he told the Kids Press Corps.
|George Washington — a man dressed up in a buisness suit and a mask in the shape of a quarter — talks with Kid Reporter Cecilia Gault at the Occupy Wall Street Rally. (Photo: Dante A. Ciampaglia)|
The march to Foley Square was filled with people of all ages carrying handmade signs and playing instruments or chanting. Some protesters were dressed in costumes to highlight their message.
One man was dressed in a black business suit and wore a mask representing a quarter with the face of George Washington. He even said his name was "George Washington."
"This is the most American thing you can possibly see, people coming together across lines of class, race, and education and deciding that we want to live together and make a world with opportunity for everyone," he said.
Despite the number of people, the march and rally were orderly and organized. As protesters marched up Broadway, volunteers from Occupy Wall Street acted as crowd control and security to keep people moving and out of harm's way.
One of those security volunteers was Asa Lowe from Brooklyn. He had been part of the protests for three weeks. He said he stumbled upon the group and felt like he needed to be a part of the movement. Until recently, he had been a crew chief at a local McDonald's. He was laid off, he said, because of corporate greed.
"Wall Street cost me my job, that's the bottom line," Lowe said.
How Others Saw the Protest
Along the march route and at Foley Square, many onlookers stopped to watch what was happening. One of them was Bob Carpenter, a Vietnam veteran and a member of the group Veterans for Peace.
"I haven't seen Foley Square this packed since the days of the Vietnam War," Carpenter said. "I'm seeing something happening again."
Carpenter said he believes the United States has lost its way. But he's hopeful that the young people of the world will make things better — starting with the rally he was watching.
"I think it's the first step on the way to creating a society that is just," he said.
Another person watching the rally from outside Foley Square was Lewis Black. Black is a stand-up comedian, author, and social critic.
"I think it's important. I think it's overdue," Black told the Kids Press Corps. "I think the people have a right to be upset that some people are not paying their fair share."
Many people who stopped to watch the rally agreed with what was taking place. But not everyone was so quick to offer their support.
"I'm not sure how much I support it," said an onlooker who identified himself as Ben. "There are certainly a lot of people here I agree with. I'm fairly liberal in my views, [but] there are a lot of people here who are going way past what I personally believe."
Ben added that he does support the people's right to protest and exercise their freedom of speech.
"I'm really happy to see that the police are not interfering and that they're just keeping the peace," Ben said. "Whether or not I agree with them it's important that Americans have a right to protest."
Protest Ends in Clash with Police
Hours after this Kid Reporter left the rally, the protest continued in Zuccotti Park. Some of the protesters there tried to cross police barricades, which led to violence. According to people on the scene who posted videos online, police used their nightsticks and pepper spray to beat back the protesters.
Nearly 30 protesters were arrested Wednesday night. Since the protests began nearly three weeks ago, more than 700 people have been arrested. Many of these arrests came last weekend when protesters tried to march on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Despite the arrests and violence, the number of protesters in New York is growing.
The protests began on September 17 with only a few hundred people. Today, thousands are turning out for events. And the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to other cities. Marches and protests have sprung up in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, among many other cities.
Rallies and protests have also been organized in other countries, including Spain, England, Japan, France, Russia, and South Korea.
Check out Cecilia's post on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog about her experience at the Occupy Wall Street rally.
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