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Video: Protesters ready for the long haul

  1. Transcript of: Protesters ready for the long haul

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: And as you heard mentioned at today's ceremony, the viral Occupy Wall Street movement blossomed into a worldwide expression of general dissatisfaction this weekend after massing some of its biggest numbers yet. Protest organizers have proven their ability to grab attention, but toward what end? NBC 's Mara Schiavocampo reports.

    MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO reporting: At the Occupy Wall Street base camp in Lower Manhattan , time to regroup.

    Unidentified Man #1: And we're getting the job done.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: After the largest day of events the movement has seen since starting a month ago, yesterday protests moved from this park to Times Square , thousands gathering for a mass demonstration against economic inequalities. Ninety-two were arrested in scuffles with police. It was a similar scene in Chicago , where overnight at least 175 were arrested, some literally carried out as police tore apart a tent camp in Grant Park . While the demonstrations are attracting many, unlike most populist movements there's no consensus on demands.

    Unidentified Woman: I wanted to be a part of a movement that hopefully will effect change so that more economic justice can be spread around.

    Unidentified Man #2: Level the field. The field is the problem, not the politicians.

    Unidentified Man #3: There has to be a change in the way that government is handled.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: This weekend Occupy Wall Street occupied the world with protests in dozens of cities including London and Berlin .

    Unidentified Man #4: We're here to fight against financial crimes they do.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: The most violent were in Rome , where today they're cleaning up after groups of protesters rampaged through the city, burning cars and smashing windows. Back in New York , donated supplies and cash continues to pour in from around the world. Organizers say the global support shows just how far they've come.

    Mr. MARK BRAY (Occupy Wall Street): We've shown that we have enough connections in the community and enough support among unions, community groups, local politicians and just individuals to say that this is a legitimate national issue.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: Those camping here at Zuccotti Park say they have no plans to leave any time soon and they've certainly set up the infrastructure for a long

Image: A group of activists hold a strategy meeting
David Karp  /  AP
A group of activists hold a strategy meeting in a storage space for supplies supporting the camp of Occupy Wall Street protesters, Oct. 16, in New York. The goods are housed in an unused space donated by the United Federation of Teachers.
By
updated 10/16/2011 10:45:01 PM ET 2011-10-17T02:45:01

The Occupy Wall Street movement has close to $300,000, as well as storage space loaded with donated supplies in lower Manhattan. It stared down city officials to hang on to its makeshift headquarters, showed its muscle Saturday with a big Times Square demonstration and found legions of activists demonstrating in solidarity across the country and around the world.

Could this be the peak for loosely organized protesters, united less by a common cause than by revulsion to what they consider unbridled corporate greed? Or are they just getting started?

There are signs of confidence, but also signs of tension among the demonstrators at Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the movement that began a month ago Monday. They have trouble agreeing on things like whether someone can bring in a sleeping bag, and show little sign of uniting on any policy issues. Some protesters eventually want the movement to rally around a goal, while others insist that isn't the point.

Story: Anti-Wall St. movement grows to dozens of cities
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"We're moving fast, without a hierarchical structure and lots of gears turning," said Justin Strekal, a college student and political organizer who traveled from Cleveland to New York to help. "... Egos are clashing, but this is participatory democracy in a little park."

Even if the protesters were barred from camping in Zuccotti Park, as the property owner and the city briefly threatened to do last week, the movement would continue, Strekal said. He said activists were working with legal experts to identify alternate sites where the risk of getting kicked out would be relatively low.

Prepping for 'long-term occupation'
Wall Street protesters are intent on hanging on to the momentum they gained from Saturday's worldwide demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in the U.S. and Europe. They're filling a cavernous space a block from Wall Street with donated goods to help sustain their nearly month-long occupation of a private park nearby.

They've amassed mounds of blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, cans of food, medical and hygienic supplies — even oddities like a box of knitting wool and 20 pairs of swimming goggles (to shield protesters from pepper-spray attacks). Supporters are shipping about 300 boxes a day, Strekal said.

The space was donated by the United Federation of Teachers, which has offices in the building.

Close to $300,000 in cash also has been donated, through the movement's website and by people who give money in person at the park, said Bill Dobbs, a press liaison for the movement. The movement has an account at Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as "the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States."

Story: Feeding the masses, fueling a movement

Strekal said the donated goods are being stored "for a long-term occupation."

"We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!" Kara Segal and other volunteers chanted in the building lobby as they arrived to help unpack and sort items, preparing them to be rolled out to the park.

While on the streets, moments of madness occasionally erupt in the protest crowd — accompanied by whiffs of marijuana, grungy clothing and disarray — order prevails at the storage site.

It doubles as a sort of Occupy Wall Street central command post, with strategic meetings that are separate from the "general assembly" free-for-alls in the park. One subject Sunday was data entry: protesters are working to get the names and addresses of donors into a databank.

The movement has become an issue in the Republican presidential primary race and beyond, with politicians from both parties under pressure to weigh in.

President Barack Obama referred to the protests at Sunday's dedication of a monument for Martin Luther King Jr. , saying the civil rights leader "would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there."

Global movement
Many of the largest of Saturday's protests were in Europe, where protesters involved in long-running demonstrations against austerity measures declared common cause with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Rome, hundreds of rioters infiltrated a march by tens of thousands of demonstrators, causing what the mayor estimated was at least euro1 million ($1.4 million) in damage to city property.

How does a group like Occupy Wall Street get anything done?

U.S. cities large and small were "occupied" over the weekend: Washington, D.C., Fairbanks, Alaska, Burlington, Vermont, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Cheyenne, Wyoming were just a few. In Cincinnati, protesters were invited to take pictures with a couple getting married; the bride and groom are Occupied Cincinnati supporters.

More than 70 New York protesters were arrested Saturday, more than 40 of them in Times Square. About 175 people were arrested in Chicago after they refused to leave a park where they were camped late Saturday, and there were about 100 arrests in Arizona — 53 in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix — after protesters refused police orders to disperse. About two dozen people were arrested in Denver, and in Sacramento, California, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was among about 20 people arrested after failing to follow police orders to disperse.

Activists around the country said they felt that Saturday's protests energized their movement.

"It's an upward trajectory," said John St. Lawrence, a Florida real estate lawyer who took part in Saturday's Occupy Orlando protest, which drew more than 1,500 people. "It's catching people's imagination and also, knock on wood, nothing sort of negative or discrediting has happened."

St. Lawrence is among those unconcerned that the movement has not rallied around any particular proposal, saying "policy is for leaders to come up with."

"I don't think the underlying theme is a mystery," he said. "We saw what the banks and financial institutions did to the economy. We bailed them out. And then they went about evicting people from their homes," he said. He added that although he is not in debt and owns his own home, other people in his neighborhood are suffering and "everyone's interests are interconnected."

Seeking a common focus
In Richmond, Virginia, about 75 people gathered Sunday for one of the "general assembly" meetings that are a key part of the movement's consensus-building process. Protester Whitney Whiting, a video editor, said the process has helped "gather voices" about Americans discontent, and that she expects it will eventually take the movement a step further.

"In regards to a singular issue or a singular focus, I think that will come eventually. But right now we have to set up a space for that to happen," Whiting said.

Some U.S. protesters, like those in Europe, have their own causes. Unions that have joined forces with the movement have demands of their own, and on Sunday members of the newly formed Occupy Pittsburgh group demanded that Bank of New York Mellon Corp. pay back money they allege it overcharged public pension funds around the country.

Video: From dorms to tents, students protest loans (on this page)

New York's attorney general and New York City sued BNY Mellon this month, accusing it of defrauding clients in foreign currency exchange transactions that generated nearly $2 billion over 10 years. The company has vowed to fight the lawsuit and had no comment about the protesters' allegation about pensions.

Lisa Deaton, a tea party leader from southern Indiana, said she sees some similarities between how the tea party movement and the Wall Street protests began: "We got up and we wanted to vent."

But the critical step, she said, was taking that emotion and focusing it toward changing government.

The first rally she organized drew more than 2,500 people, but afterward, "it was like, 'What do we do?'" she said. "You can't have a concert every weekend."

The Wall Street protesters' lack of leadership and focus on consensus-building has help bring together people with different perspectives, but it's also created some tension.

"Issues are arising — like who is bringing in sleeping bags without permission," said Laurie Dobson, who's been helping a self-governed "working group" called "SIS" — for Shipping, Inventory and Supplies.

Sleeping bags were among items cited by Zuccotti Park's owner, Brookfield Properties, as not allowed on the premises — along with tents, tarps and other essentials for the encampment. By Sunday, all those items were back.

Strekal didn't see that as a problem. Protesters could do it, he said, "because we're winning the PR war."

Around his neck hangs a tiny silver Liberty Bell -- a symbol of American independence given to him by a fellow activist.

___

Associated Press writers Suzette Laboy in Miami, Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Virginia, Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh, Laurie Kellman and Stacy A. Anderson in Washington, Tom LoBianco in Indianapolis, Sophia Tareen and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Data: Occupy Wall Street

Photos: Global Occupy protests begin

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  1. Mounted police stop Occupy Wall Street participants trying to break through barricades preventing them from spilling onto the street at Times Square in New York on Saturday, Oct. 15. Thousands of demonstrators protesting corporate greed filled Times Square and there were dozens of arests. The Occupy Wall Street movement went global with groups from Asia to Europe, and in every U.S. state, staging demonstrations and other actions. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. New York police, center, arrest protesters amid the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Times Square. (Zhu Wei / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Demonstrators associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement protest amid steam in New York's Times Square on Oct. 15. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Protesters with Occupy Seattle burn a Bank of America debit card as they protest in downtown Seattle on Oct. 15. (Ted S. Warren / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Occupy Seattle protesters march near Seattle's Pike Place Market, Oct. 15. (Ted S. Warren / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Tourists in a cable car take photographs of Occupy San Francisco protesters during a demonstration Oct. 15. (Robert Galbraith / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Demonstrators take part in the Occupy Miami protest, Oct. 15. (Joe Skipper / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. People are detained by New York City police officers in the lobby of a Citibank branch near Washington Square, where Occupy Wall Street demonstrators held a rally Oct. 15. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. About 100 Occupy Wall Street protesters march along Oxnard Boulevard in Oxnard, Calif., on Oct 15. (Juan Carlo / The Ventura County Star via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Young people perfom a symbolic act at Athen's Syntagma square as they participate in a protest against the global financial system Oct. 15. (Alkis Konstantinidis / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A police officer subdues a protester in front of the St. John in Lateran basilica during clashes in Rome on Oct. 15. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Protesters march through the smoke of flares during a demonstration in dowtown Rome on Oct. 15. (Mario Laporta / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Police officers fire tear gas in Rome on Oct. 15. Protesters in Rome smashed shop windows and torched cars as violence broke out during a demonstration in the Italian capital. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Protesters hurl objects at police in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 15. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Demonstrators attempt to break through the entrance of a bank branch during a protest against banking and finance in Rome. (Stefano Rellandini / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Police scuffle with 'Occupy London' protesters at an entrance to Paternoster Square, Oct. 15. (Matt Cetti-Roberts / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A protester scuffles with police during the 'Occupy London' protest outside St. Paul's Cathedral on Oct. 15, in London, England. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website arrives to speak to protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Protesters shout slogans as they take part in the 'Occupy Central' protest in Stockholm, Sweden. (Maja Suslin / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Protesters gather at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. The demonstration is one of many being held across the country recently in support of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York. (Bradley C Bower / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. German protesters demonstrating against the influence of bankers and financiers sit on the ground next to the Euro symbol in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. (Johannes Simon / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Hooded protestors with Pinocchio-type noses, one holding a Euro sign, walk up to the gate of the NYSE Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Oct. 15, during a demonstration in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Demonstrators stand in front of the Credit Suisse building during the "Occupy Paradeplatz" protest in Zurich, Switzerland. (Christian Hartmann / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A protester with fake U.S. bank notes stuck on his mask takes part in an "Occupy Hong Kong" rally outside the Hong Kong Exchange Square. (Kin Cheung / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A protester holds a placard during an "Occupy Hong Kong" rally outside the Hong Kong Exchange Square. (Kin Cheung / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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