Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- New York police stood prepared for tens of thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators to descend on the Financial District, and ringed the area with metal barricades to deter crowds from reaching their goal of surrounding the New York Stock Exchange.
At least 1,000 protesters filled the streets surrounding the NYSE and Zuccotti Park, the symbolic home of the movement. Police this week cleared the park of tents and other gear, which protesters had used to camp for two months. By 7 a.m. today, police had blocked access to Wall Street and Broad Street, home of the NYSE, and workers were being asked to show identification to enter the area. Helicopters hovered overhead.
“It’s a huge waste of taxpayer money to pay all these police overtime for two months,” Ken Polcari, a floor trader and managing director at ICAP Corporates, said by telephone from the NYSE, where he’s worked for 28 years. “The Big Board isn’t going to succumb to a bunch of kids with no message. I expect it’s going to be an annoyance.”
At one point, police wrestled with protesters outside 60 Wall St. as office workers waiting to get through filmed the action with smart phones. Several protesters were arrested and hauled away in vans. One protester’s sign read: “Debt -- the only thing still made in the U.S.”
NYSE Euronext is planning “business as usual,” Rich Adamonis, a spokesman for the exchange, wrote in an e-mail. He declined to comment on the company’s security measures.
‘Raise a Ruckus’
Following the morning’s activities to “raise a ruckus and clog up the works” in Lower Manhattan, protesters plan to take their protest against economic inequality into the subway system, said Mark Bray, a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street. They plan to fan out on trains throughout the five boroughs, ending with a 5 p.m. rally at Foley Square and march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Howard Wolfson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy for government relations, said at a City Hall briefing yesterday that officials were anticipating tens of thousands of people protesting “aimed at significant disruption.” Forces would be deployed accordingly, he said.
“It’s time we put an end to Wall Street’s reign of terror and begin building an economy that works for all,” the group said on its website. Demonstrators will “confront Wall Street with the stories of people on the front lines of economic injustice. There, before the stock exchange, we will exchange stories rather than stocks.”
‘The 99 Percent’
The Occupy Wall Street protests, which began in New York Sept. 17, have spread to cities on four continents, including London, Sydney, Toronto, Rome and Tokyo. The demonstrators refer to themselves as “the 99 percent,” a reference to Nobel Prize- winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the richest 1 percent control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.
The events today follow the group’s loss of its two-month campsite at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan on Nov. 15, when New York City police in riot gear swept into the privately owned public park beginning around 1 a.m.
About 200 people were arrested, police said. Among them were journalists and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a north Manhattan Democrat, who said he was thrown to the ground while attending as an observer.
After the raid, lawyers for the demonstrators failed to convince a judge to reverse the eviction.
“The court’s ruling vindicates our position that First Amendment rights do not include the right to endanger the public or infringe on the rights of others by taking over a public space,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Zuccotti Park will remain open to all who want to enjoy it, as long as they abide by the park’s rules.”
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Camps have also been shut down by officials in cities including Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon. A judge yesterday ordered Boston to refrain from removing protesters from Dewey Square until Dec. 1.
Protesters in New York said they remained unbowed by the city’s move to ban sleeping bags, tarps and tents. More than 150 had regrouped in the park with umbrellas yesterday as rain blanketed the city.
“We’ve all realized that the movement’s a lot more than just a physical occupation,” Julien Harrison, a former college teaching assistant from Georgia, said by telephone. He said he’s camped at the park sporadically since the occupation began.
‘The Best Thing’
Expulsion from the park “was the best thing that could have happened to us strategically” because “it looks bad for a system that continually uses violence against non-violence,” said Daniel Zetah, 35, from Minnesota, who’s slept in the park most nights. “It’s going to galvanize people” and inspire large numbers to attend today’s events, he said in a telephone interview.
Last month, police halted a march over the Brooklyn Bridge and took hundreds of activists into custody for blocking traffic.
The city has spent $6 million on protest-related costs, excluding the Nov. 15 raid, said Wolfson and Caswell Holloway, deputy mayor for operations. Protesters won’t be allowed to camp at any other city parks, Wolfson said.
“Our goal is to ensure that the city continues to run, that essential services get provided to get to and from work,” Holloway said yesterday at the briefing. “Public safety is first and foremost.”
New York’s demonstrators will be joined by advocacy groups, the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO in a “nationwide ‘We Are The 99%’ day of action,” Daniel Mintz, campaign director of MoveOn.org, said in an e-mailed statement. The online organization was started in opposition to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and became an advocate for overhauling health care.
Protests in almost every state will call on members of a congressional supercommittee looking for spending reductions “to protect vital programs like Medicare and Social Security, and finally make the super-rich pay their fair share instead of supporting a deal chock full of job-killing cuts,” Mintz said.
--With assistance from Henry Goldman, Whitney Kisling, Charlie Mead, Jeff Kearns and Chris Dolmetsch in New York. Editors: Mark Schoifet, Mark Tannenbaum
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