NEW YORK — Protesters who have been camping out in Manhattan's Financial District say their movement has grown and become more organized. They have no intention of stopping as they move into their third week, following the second weekend in a row of mass arrests.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstration started out small last month, with less than a dozen college students spending days and nights in Zuccotti Park, a private plaza off Broadway. It has grown sizably, however, both in New York City and elsewhere as people in other communities across the country display their solidarity in similar protests.
The event has drawn protesters of diverse ages and occupations who are speaking out against corporate greed, social inequality, global climate change and other concerns.
Kira Moyer-Sims, 19, of Portland, Ore., said things have changed a lot since the protest started, with the group much more organized. "We have a protocol for most things," she said, including what to do when people are arrested in terms of getting legal help.
She said the protest would only continue.
"They thought we were going to leave and we haven't left," she said of city officials.
"We're going to stay as long as we can," she added.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department wouldn't be changing its approach to handling the protest, that it would continue regular patrols and monitoring but not assign additional officers. Police officers have been a regular sight at the plaza.
"As always, if it is a lawful demonstration, we help facilitate, and if they break the law, we arrest them," Browne said.
The Fire Department said it had gone to the site several times over the past week to check for any fire safety hazards arising from people living in the plaza, but there have been no major issues.
On Sunday, a group of New York public school teachers sat in the plaza, including Denise Martinez. The 47-year-old Brooklyn resident works at a school where most students are at poverty level.
"The bottom line is the feeling that the financial industries here on Wall Street have caused the economic problems, and they're not contributing their fair share to solving them," she said of her reasons for camping out Sunday.
She said funding for education has shrunk to the point where her classes are as large as about 50.
"These are America's future workers, and what's trickling down to them are the problems — the unemployment, the crime."
Another voice on Sunday belonged to Jackie Fellner, a 32-year-old marketing manager from Westchester County.
"We're not here to take down Wall Street. It's not poor against rich. It's about big money dictating which politicians get elected and what programs get funded," she said.
Gatherings elsewhere included one in Providence, R.I., that attracted about 60 people to a public park. The participants called it a "planning meeting" and initially debated whether to allow reporters to cover it.
In Boston, protesters set up an encampment across the street from the Federal Reserve Building.
The New York City protesters have spent most of their time in the plaza, sleeping on air mattresses, holding assemblies at which they discuss their goals and listening to speakers including celebrity activist Michael Moore and Princeton University professor Cornel West.
On the past two Saturdays, though, they marched to other parts of the city, which led to tense standoffs with police. On Sept. 24, about 100 people were arrested and the group put out video that showed some women being hit with pepper spray by a police official. On Oct. 1, more than 700 people were arrested as the group attempted to cross to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Some of the protesters said they were lured onto the roadway by police or they didn't hear the calls from authorities to head to the pedestrian walkway. Police said no one was tricked into being arrested, and those in the back of the group who couldn't hear were allowed to leave.
The NYPD on Sunday released video footage to back up its stance. In one of the videos, an official used a bullhorn to warn the crowd. Marchers could be seen chanting, "Take the bridge."
Browne said that of the most recent arrests, the vast majority had been released. Eight people were held, three because of outstanding warrants and five others who refused to show any identification.