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Protesters Rally Against Big Banks In Manhattan

by Michael Herzenberg

There was no shortage of gimmicks Friday as about 300 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators hit the streets of Midtown to protest corporate greed.

Dressed as the medieval hero who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, they called for a tax on financial speculation — the so-called "Robin Hood tax" — and for an extension of the state's millionaire's tax. They marched from Zuccotti Park to the bull on Wall Street, stopping by a few banks along the way. People dressed as pirates and rode bicycles made to look like boats, for example, and a choir sang while holding a massive sheet of lyrics that included lines like “I live paycheck to paycheck and find it hard to pay rent.”

They brought with them very serious personal stories. Thousands of them were printed from Occupy Wall Street's website and others were expressed in person.

“You haven't seen the devastation that foreclosures caused,” shouted protesters.

The goal was to make sure CEOs of big banks see and hear the pain protesters say they cause on the ground.

“It has become a nightmare,” said protester Mimi Pierre-Johnson.

Pierre-Johnson said she's fighting JP Morgan Chase so that she doesn't lose her home.

“Those who qualify for these loan modifications, just do it already and stop devastating our communities with these policies,” said Pierre-Johnson.

Demonstrators started in Bryant Park and split into two groups with a police escort on every corner as protesters delivered the letters by makeshift airmail. They threw paper airplanes and aimed for the top floors to symbolize how difficult they say it is for CEOs to hear them.

They then collected them and left them in the lobbies of Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.

Only two banks responded to NY1’s requests for a comment. Citibank wrote in part that it will review the letters and follow up with customers as needed. Wells Fargo wrote in part that it recognizes Americans demand more from their financial institutions during difficult economic times and is committed to help those in distress find solutions.

Meanwhile, back downtown, another contingent of protesters was on the move.

Dressed as the medieval hero who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, they called for a tax on financial speculation — the so-called "Robin Hood tax" — and for an extension of the state's millionaire's tax.

They marched from Zuccotti Park to the bull on Wall Street, stopping by a few banks along the way.

Marchers said a one percent tax on all financial transactions and currency trades could generate billions for infrastructure and social programs.

"There's actually plenty of money for our schools, for jobs, for our health care, for all the things we need, but it's been taken from us from Wall Street, and the only way we're going to take care of the next generations is do what Robin Hood did 500 years ago in Sherwood Forest," said one protester.

A group of protestors is planning to march on the U.S. Treasury next week.

National Nurses United is organizing the trip to Washington, and buses are set to leave Zuccotti Park at 6 a.m. Thursday.

Protesters will be calling on Secretary Timothy Geitner to support the taxation of big bank transactions.

FDNY Removes Generators From Encampment

Members of the New York City Fire Department swept through Zuccotti Park Friday morning to remove generators and other items considered to be fire hazards at the Occupy Wall Street camp.

Protesters said the firefighters came in and announced the surprise safety inspections.

The mayor said the protestors can stay in the park as long as they obey the law.

"As long as they don't take away anyone else's rights to say what they want to say or to not say anything and go about their business safely, quality of life is something we do worry about. As long as they do that, at the moment, it will continue," Bloomberg said.

"We have bike generators anyway, so we can make do with that for the weekend. We have a lot of sub zero sleeping bags as well. So we're pretty certain we can keep people nice and warm," said one protester.

Meanwhile, the NYPD Sergeants' Union is warning protesters not to interfere with police business.

The Sergeant's Benevolent Association said it will pursue legal action against protestors who injure any of its members.

Union representatives said the move is in response to growing violence at protests across the country.

SBA President Ed Mullins said more than 20 officers have been injured at "occupy" events nationwide.

Mullins pointed out that assaulting a police officer is a felony.

Some protestors claim the police are inciting the violence.

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