Scores of protesters representing the Occupy Wall Street movement, march along Broadway on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, in the Soho section of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
by Meghan Barr
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — It has been two years since a disillusioned band of protesters first pitched tents in lower Manhattan, sparking the movement against corporate greed known as Occupy Wall Street.
On Tuesday morning, about 100 Occupiers returned to the small granite plaza near the New York Stock Exchange that once teemed with thousands of protesters. But this time around, the park was barely half full. Most of the granite benches were empty. The number of police officers and reporters nearly equaled the number of protesters.
Small groups of protesters marched around the streets near Zuccotti in the morning, while another march to Washington Square Park clogged the sidewalks in the early afternoon. The protesters were scattered in smaller groups around New York City.
An “assembly for the 99 percent” was held in the afternoon at Zuccotti, a nod to the massive general assembly meetings that were held on a daily basis in the park at the height of the movement.
“We’re still out here fighting for economic justice. The bankers still have all the power,” protester Linnea Paton said. “They’ve bought our government and we need a people’s movement to do that, and the movement is still here.”
But the movement has splintered since Mayor Michael Bloomberg had police raid the park and break up the encampment in November 2011. Without leaders or specific demands, Occupy turned into an amorphous protest against everything wrong with the world.
Occupy was perhaps at its most effective in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when organizers played a leading role in grassroots disaster relief across the city. They organized donation hubs, delivered food and medications to elderly storm victims and helped people repair their homes, among other volunteer efforts.
“We’re here to celebrate two years: We’re still here, still fighting, still strong,” protester Sumumba Sobukwe told a small crowd gathered on the steps leading into the park. “And we’re still Occupy.”
But the question of exactly what Occupy is at this point remains muddled by the vast number of competing interest groups promoting their own causes under the Occupy banner.
A website called “Occu Evolve,” a subgroup that says it is devoted to “expanding” Occupy into a movement, posted a long list of activities planned throughout the day that will be hosted by various protest groups, including Alternative Banking Working Group of Occupy Wall Street, Families of Police Violence, Money Wars Performers, Occupy Staten Island and Occupy Wall Street Zapatistas.
Barbara Lynch, who was advocating for higher wages for fast-food workers, said Occupy is still alive and isn’t going anywhere, even though the movement has shifted toward working in smaller groups.
“The CEOs are still making outrageous sums of money. And now it’s time that they have to pay,” she said. “We can’t sacrifice anything more.”