Occupy New York protesters celebrate six months since foundation

Occupy New York protesters celebrate six months since foundation

Protesters chanted and cheered as they marched down Wall Street to mark six months since the birth of the Occupy movement.

Some of the protesters applauded the Goldman Sachs employee who days ago gave the firm a public drubbing, echoing the movement's indictment of a financial system demonstrators say is fuelled by reckless greed.

"I kind of like to think that the Occupy movement helped him to say: 'Yeah, I really can't do this anymore'," retired librarian Connie Bartusis said of former Goldman Sachs manager Greg Smith, who claimed the company regularly foisted failing products on clients as it sought to make more money.

Carrying a sign with the words "Regulate Regulate Regulate", Ms Bartusis said the loss of governmental checks on the financial system helped create the climate of unfettered self-interest described by Mr Smith in his piece, although Goldman's leadership suggested he had not portrayed the bank's culture accurately.

"Greed is a very powerful force," Ms Bartusis said. "That's what got us in trouble."

Yesterday, six months after the protesters first took over Zuccotti Park near the city's financial district, protesters gathered there again, drawing slogans in chalk on the pavement and waving flags as they marched through lower Manhattan.

With the city's attention focused on the huge St Patrick's Day parade many blocks away, the Occupy rally at Zuccotti drew a couple of hundred people - a smaller crowd than the demonstrations seen in the city when the movement was at its peak.

With the barricades that once blocked them from Wall Street now removed, the protesters streamed down the pavement and covered the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial. There, steps from the New York Stock Exchange and standing at the feet of a statue of George Washington, they danced and chanted "We are unstoppable".

Police say arrests were made.

As always, the protesters focused on a variety of concerns, but for Tom Hagan, his sights were on the giants of finance.

"Wall Street did some terrible things, especially Goldman Sachs, but all of them. Everyone from the banks to the rating agencies, they all knew they were doing wrong. ... But they did it anyway. Because the money was too big," he said.

Dressed in an outfit that might have been more appropriate for the St Patrick's Day parade, the 61-year-old salesman wore a green shamrock cap and carried a sign asking for saintly intervention: "St Patrick: Drive the snakes out of Wall Street."

Stacy Hessler, 39, held up a cardboard sign that read, "Spring is coming", a reference, she said, both to the Arab Spring and to the warm weather returning to New York City.

She believes the nicer weather will bring the crowds back to Occupy protests, where numbers have dwindled in recent months since the group's encampment was ousted from Zuccotti Park by authorities in November.

But some have questioned whether the group can regain its momentum. This month, the finance accounting group in New York City reported that just about $119,000 (€90,285) remained in Occupy's bank account - the equivalent of about two weeks' worth of expenses.

But Ms Hessler, from Florida, said the group had remained strong and she pronounced herself satisfied with what the Occupy protesters had accomplished over the last half year.

"It's changed the language," she said. "It's brought out a lot of issues that people are talking about. ... And that's the start of change."

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