The Associated Press October 5, 2011, 4:58PM ET

Unions, students join Wall Street protesters

Crowds of union members, college students and others are adding their voices to the demonstrators who've been camped out near Wall Street.

About 1,000 students held up signs denouncing the dismal state of the economy as they marched to Foley Square in lower Manhattan on Wednesday.

At least another 1,000 people were already at Foley Square, mixing with young people who had been camped out in Zuccotti Park for the past couple of weeks.

The Occupy Wall Street protest started Sept. 17. The protesters have varied causes but have reserved most of their criticism for Wall Street. They've spoken out about unemployment and economic inequality, saying "we are the 99 percent" -- in contrast to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A diverse group of powerful unions joined demonstrations near Wall Street on Wednesday, lending focus, credibility and potentially hundreds of participants to a group that started out with a few college students camping out in lower Manhattan.

Among those planning to join the clamor were members of the Chinatown Tenants Union and the Transit Workers Union, the liberal group MoveOn.org and community organizations such as the Working Families Party and United NY. At several colleges across the nation, students participated from afar by heeding organizers' calls to walk out of classes.

In New York, protesters were gathering at Foley Square, an area encircled by courthouses and named for "Big Tom" Foley, a former blacksmith's helper who became a prominent state Democratic leader. From there they were to march to Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters where protesters have been camped out in sleeping bags.

It's unclear how many people will be joining the march on Wednesday, but some organizers said thousands could show up. About 1,000 people were in Foley Square shortly before the march was to begin.

Some union members were driving in from other states. Roxanne Pauline, a coordinator for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Area Labor Federation, said some of her union's members plan to stay in Zuccotti Park over the weekend.

"They'll teach the younger people what unions are -- that they're not thugs or mobsters, but working people," she said.

Police said that United NY had sought a permit for the rally and that about 2,000 people were expected. They were planning to use microphones at the square, but not at the park.

The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organized, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper.

The protesters have varied causes but have reserved most of their criticism for Wall Street. They've spoken out about unemployment and economic inequality, saying "we are the 99 percent" -- in contrast to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

"I think they're capturing a feel of disempowerment, feeling like nobody is listening to them," said Camille Rivera, executive director of United NY. "What do you do when no one is listening to you? You speak up, you take action."

Other groups have periodically gathered and protested in spots throughout the country. One of the larger ones Wednesday was in Boston, where about 200 Northeastern University students gathered on campus to condemn what they called corporate control of government and the spiraling costs of their education.

"We're letting inequality build in this country and there's not enough resistance," said senior international affairs major Andrea Gordillo, of Sarasota, Fla.

"There are real bread-and-butter issues in this country -- like the future of Social Security and our parents' retirement -- that aren't being taken care of now, and we're the ones who are going to be called on to fix that," she said of her generation.

Hundreds of college students at New York's sprawling public university system walked out of classes Wednesday afternoon, some in a show of solidarity for the Wall Street movement but many more concerned with worries closer to home. Protests were scheduled at State University of New York campuses including Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, New Paltz and Purchase.

Danielle Kingsbury, a 21-year-old senior from New Paltz, said she walked out of an American literature class to show support for some of her professors who she said have had their workloads increased because of budget cuts.

"The state of education in our country is ridiculous," said Kingsbury, who plans to teach. "The state doesn't care about it and we need to fight back about that."

Not every campus appeared to feel the rumblings of dissent Wednesday. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, there were students publicizing breast cancer awareness and National Coming Out Week, students crawling on their elbows in an apparent fraternity hazing ritual, quarreling evangelicals and even a flash mob to promote physical fitness, but no sign of the Wall Street protests.

Senior Alex Brown tried to promote an event on Facebook, but wasn't having success. "While people are really disgusted with a government that can't compromise and the richest 400 people have more wealth than the poorest 150 million, it's not enough to reach a fever pitch," he said.

In New York, police spokesman Paul Browne said the NYPD was prepared for a large group march Wednesday.

No one needs a permit to protest in New York City, where picket lines and marches go on nearly every day. But a permit allows demonstrators to do things that would normally be illegal -- like filling an entire street.

About 700 members of the Wall Street group were arrested and given disorderly conduct summonses for spilling into the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday despite warnings from police.

It's not clear whether the protesters meant it as civil disobedience; some say they were tricked by police into entering the road and were wrongly arrested. Police video shows officers with bullhorns telling them to keep off the road.

MoveOn.org is planning a "virtual march" on its website by encouraging people to post photos of themselves with the caption: "I'm the 99 percent." The group's executive director, Justin Ruben, called the protesters "brave young people" who have successfully inspired others to join them.

"From our perspective, we're protesting kind of the greed that led to the collapse of our economy," Ruben said. "The fact that these banks aren't paying their fair share."

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Associated Press writers Mark Pratt in Boston, Chris Carola in New Paltz, N.Y., and Justin Pope in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.


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