Occupy Wall Street Protest Culminates With 6,000 in Times Square

By: Esmé E. Deprez

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) — Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City today culminated with a Times Square rally that drew thousands opposed to economic inequality, echoed by protests from London to Tokyo.

Participants in the month-old movement marched past a JPMorgan Chase & Co. branch early in the day to urge clients to close accounts. Twenty-four were arrested later at a Citigroup Inc. office, the police said, and about 6,000 gathered in Times Square, the organizers estimated.

Hong Kong, Sydney, Toronto and other cities also saw protests, which turned violent in Rome, in what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed.” Backers say they represent “the 99 percent,” a nod to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.

“The world will rise up as one and say, ‘We have had enough,’” Patrick Bruner, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman, said in an e-mail. A news release from the organization said there were demonstrations in 1,500 cities worldwide, including 100 in the U.S.

New York participants walked from an encampment in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza near Wall Street. They passed out fliers urging clients to transfer accounts to “a financial institution that supports the 99 percent.”

The fliers provided a list of alternatives, including the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and Amalgamated Bank, described as the nation’s only union-owned bank.

Message to Banks

“I’m interested in sending a message to support banks that actually support the community as opposed to those like Chase that took government money and fired workers anyway,” said Penny Lewis, 40, a City University of New York labor professor. She said she planned to close her Chase account on Monday.

Howard Opinsky, a Chase spokesman, declined to comment. The second-largest U.S. bank received and repaid $25 billion from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

A group left a demonstration at Washington Square Park and entered a downtown branch of Citibank at nearby LaGuardia Place, Deputy New York City Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said in an e-mail.

They refused the bank manager’s request to leave and 24 were arrested for trespassing, he said. One was charged additionally with resisting; the others were compliant, he said.

More than 700 have been arrested in New York since the movement began Sept. 17, mostly for disorderly conduct. Police said they arrested 15 yesterday for infractions such as sitting in the street and overturning trash bins.

Confrontation Avoided

A wider confrontation was avoided after Zuccotti Park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., postponed a cleanup that would have removed and banned protestors’ sleeping bags, tents and other gear that provided overnight accommodations.

Protesters and local politicians had gathered 300,000 signatures, flooded the city’s 311 information line and drew more than 3,000 people to the park to oppose the cleanup, Bruner said.

The protesters have sought to transform Zuccotti Park into a self-sustaining community with donated food, medical supplies, hygiene products, sleeping bags and clothing. Pete Dutro, a member of the group’s finance committee, said it had received at least $150,000 in donations.

Justin Strekal, a Cleveland native and member of the protestors’ shipping, inventory and storage committee, said about 200 packages are being received daily. He said names and return addresses are being recorded so thank-you notes can be sent.

Letters of Support

Letters of solidarity are also being archived to post online, he said. One that was included in a box holding 10 packets of ramen noodles said the sender couldn’t afford more because they were unemployed for two years and their house was in foreclosure, Strekal said.

David Gorman, who lives on Wall Street and works nearby as president of capital markets at Kern Suslow Securities Inc., said the area’s activity is a nuisance.

“They’re banging drums and screaming and it’s a quarter to eight in the morning and this is literally in my back yard,” he said. “People live here. If someone was protesting in front of my house in the suburbs, I don’t think they’d let that happen.”

The Occupy Wall Street protest has spread to U.S. cities including Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco. While New York’s participants have been allowed to stay at their encampment, other cities haven’t been as tolerant.

Near the Colorado state Capitol in Denver, police in riot gear took down protesters’ campsite and arrested two dozen people, the Associated Press reported. In San Diego, police used pepper spray to split up a human chain formed around a tent, the news agency said. In Trenton, New Jersey, police removed tents and other gear from an area near a war memorial yesterday.

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