SAN FRANCISCO — Most Americans spent Thanksgiving snug inside homes with families and football. Others used the holiday to give thanks alongside strangers at outdoor Occupy encampments, serving turkey or donating their time in solidarity with the anti-Wall Street movement that has gripped a nation consumed by economic despair.
In San Francisco, hundreds of campers at Justin Herman Plaza in the heart of the financial district prepared turkey dinners that were handed out by volunteers, church charities and supporters of the movement against social and economic inequality.
Across the bay in Oakland, where protesters and police previously clashed when an Occupy encampment was broken up, occupiers enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast outside City Hall with music and activist speakers, including Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the Minnesota-based American Indian Movement.
And in New York, Occupy organizers distributed Thanksgiving meals at Zuccotti Park, where the protest movement began on Sept. 17 before spreading nationwide. Protesters were evicted from the park on Nov. 15.
"So many people have given up so much to come and be a part of the movement because there is really that much dire need for community," said Megan Hayes, a chef and organizer with the Occupy Wall Street Kitchen in New York. "We decided to take this holiday opportunity to provide just that — community."
She said some 3,000 meals were distributed.
The movement's slogan, "We are the 99," refers to the growing wealth gap between the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and the remaining 99 percent.
The movement was triggered by the high rate of unemployment and foreclosures, as well as the growing perception that big banks and corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, yet are taking in huge bonuses while most Americans have seen their incomes drop.
In New York, restaurants and individual donors had prepared more than 3,000 meals for the traditional Thanksgiving feast, said Haywood Carey, 28, of Chapel Hill, N.C., who was volunteering his time serving meals and said the celebration was a sign of Americans' shared values.
"The things that divide are much less than the things that bind us together," Carey said, as the crowd ate to the old spiritual anthem, "Let it Shine" by a guitarist and a bongo player.
In Las Vegas, Occupy organizer Sebring Frehner said protesters had a potluck Thanksgiving meal at their campsite near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He said he was happy to skip the traditional meal at home.
"Instead of hunkering down with five or six close individuals in your home, people you probably see all of the time anyway, you are celebrating Thanksgiving with many different families — kind of like the original Thanksgiving," Frehner said.
Trisha Carr, 35, spent her holiday at the Occupy encampment at City Hall in Philadelphia. She has been out of work for more than two years and lost her car and home. She's been living in an Occupy tent for several weeks.
"Some days are harder than others," Carr said.
The sunny, crisp weather Thursday put her in a good mood, and she watched the annual Thanksgiving parade before coming back to the encampment for a plate full of turkey and fixings.
Carr said her job search has been fruitless and government needs to do more to help people like her.
"I had the benefits, I had money in my pocket, I had health care — I had it all," Carr said. She later added: "There should be no reason why people aren't working."