The scene at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan was a familiar site yesterday — hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters regrouped there to mark the movement’s first anniversary.
Police arrested more than 181 people throughout the day as protesters filtered through the Financial District and Foley Square in an effort to disrupt traffic — a tactic protesters said was meant to draw attention to the messages of the 99 percent.
A massive convergence of NYPD officers blocked access to Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange, where the movement vowed to stage a protest yesterday morning.
Only those who could show police proof that their places of employment are on Wall Street were permitted to pass. Zuccotti Park, which was barricaded by police for much of yesterday morning, was later opened and occupied by protesters.
“This country is in big trouble,” protester Sally Gellart, who denied that OWS has lost steam in recent months, told Metro.
“There are actions that you don’t hear so much about, and it’s going to be a long-term process, but yes, it’s still happening,”?she said.
Protesters also rallied outside corporations like Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Jackson Lewis.
“What’s disgusting? Union busting. What’s outrageous? Poverty wages,” protesters chanted, as the air filled with chanting and drumming.
While yesterday’s anniversary rally was the most active and visible the movement has been since its May Day action, OWS does have meetings and workshops planned on a regular basis through October.
Many protesters said they hoped yesterday’s action will serve as a springboard for more upcoming Occupy events.
“I think it’s going to branch out from here,” Dallas, a protester who preferred to not give his last name, told Metro. “You’re going to see a lot of new avenues of activism open up from this movement, and you’re going to see a lot of people who have never involved themselves in activism before become active.”
Another round of violent NYPD/Occupy clashes
Out of the 181 arrests, several resulted in heated confrontations between protesters and the police yesterday.
Metro witnessed three NYPD officers pulling a young woman to the ground before arresting her near Nassau and Pine streets.
Another three officers pushed a man with a camera facedown on the back of a police car while arresting him near the same intersection.
Artie Duncanson, who has been following the Occupy movement, said he saw about 20 people get ‘cuffed as the crowd marched yesterday morning.
“There were a couple rows of people in front of me, but I witnessed a cop take a younger girl, probably in her mid-20s, throw her down, and then she was trying to get up or they picked her up, and she got thrown back down into the ground once again before being arrested,” Duncanson said.
Financial District workers say Occupy is tamer this time around
People who work in Lower Manhattan breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday afternoon, as many said the Occupy anniversary brought less chaos than they expected.
The consensus seemed to be that the calm was a result of a tamer crowd and a more prepared police force.
A man who works in the Financial District, and who asked to only be identified by his first name, Joe, said that he noticed the crowd of protesters was “a lot smaller this year,” he said.
“As of now it seems a lot nicer than last year,” Joe said, standing on the edge of the barricades that surrounded Zuccotti Park. Protesters last year were a little mean, he said.
Another man, whose office is located at 45 Broadway, agreed there were fewer protesters, so it seemed like police outnumbered them in comparison.
Sharon Horyak, an employee at Omega World Travel, which has an office on the south side of Zuccotti Park, agreed that the crowd was smaller and calmer.
“These people are rather orderly this time,” she said. “Last year was a zoo. Right now it just looks like a big party.”
“This just feels like a circus without any rides,” said Joe.
He’s hoping it stays that way.
Horyak said she is also keeping her fingers crossed.
“Last year they had the drums going all day,” she said. “It was like an annoying toothache, and I work all the way up on the fifteenth floor.”