Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The protests against Wall Street look like they'll be lasting longer than first expected. New York's mayor on Monday indicated that the demonstrators can stay where they are, and protesters in Washington took a four-month extension of their permit to camp out near the White House.
With the original New York protest entering its fourth week, demonstrators said they are staying in their improvised camp in a downtown park for the long haul.
"The bottom line is that people want to express themselves, and as long as they obey the laws, we allow them to," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters when asked about the protesters' staying power. "If they break the laws, then we're going to do what we're supposed to do — enforce the laws."
The protesters say they're fighting for the "99 percent," or the vast majority of Americans who do not fall into the wealthiest 1 percent of the population; their causes range from bringing down Wall Street to fighting global warming. The movement gained traction through social media, and protests have taken place in several other cities nationwide.
Rapper Kanye West and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader, made impromptu appearances at Zuccotti Park on Monday.
Several hundred protesters briefly marched through the Wall Street neighborhood Monday evening, honking horns and chanting.
"The banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" went one chant.
"All day, all week, occupy Wall Street," went another.
In Washington, protesters accepted an offer by U.S. Park Police to extend by four months their permit to demonstrate at Freedom Plaza near the White House.
Others marched in cities such as Boston, where hundreds of college students gathered on Boston Common holding signs that read "Fund education, not corporations." The protesters said they're angry with an education system they say mimics what they call the "irresponsible, unaccountable, and unethical financial practices" of Wall Street.
In New York, the police department has already spent $1.9 million, mostly in overtime pay, to patrol the area near Zuccotti Park. If the crowd seems to be growing on a particular day, the department dispatches more officers to the area, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
But many events in New York City require a police presence, like parades, said James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute.
"To some extent this sort of thing happens a lot in New York City," Parrott said. "$2 million in the context of a $66 billion annual budget is not a deal breaker."
Most of the protesters seem to share that view. Mark Bray, a spokesman for the protesters, questioned the need for such a strong police presence in the first place.
"If your argument is that police expense equals an ineffective message, how are you ever going to form a movement?" he said. "Because the police always come out, you know?"