Lacy MacAuley is on her mobile phone from Lower Manhattan, cold, tired and hoarse from chanting.
“I’ve been leading the cheers,’’ she said Monday night, referring to the protests in the financial heart of America.
The American activist, known to Torontonians as the petite redhead who was tackled and dragged into a police van during the G20 protests of 2010, was one of the dogged demonstrators still camping out and attempting to “Occupy Wall Street.”
On Saturday, about 1,000 showed up to protest that 40 per cent of the wealth in the U.S. is held by one per cent of the people, and a record one in seven Americans live in poverty, the highest rate in the industrialized world.
They want to know why the banks get bailouts, bankers get bonuses while ordinary citizens are losing their homes and jobs.
“There’s something very wrong with our system as it is, there’s something very wrong with our financial system,” says MacAuley, who works for a Washington-based think-tank. “Few people have so much — and there are so many people who are really hurting.”
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Despite financial support from those following #OccupyWallStreet and #OurWallStreet on Twitter — including stacks of pizzas and other food donations made via local restaurant websites — the occupation seemed to be losing steam.
On Monday, actor/comic Roseanne Barr spoke to the crowd. Criticizing the right-wing media and those fighting tax increases for millionaires, she said to wild cheers: “We will simply combine capitalism and socialism and create people-ism.”
By Tuesday night, the protestors had dwindled to about 150 — although their numbers were higher during the day.
The New York Police Department has made as many as 12 arrests. As it is legal to sleep on New York City sidewalks for political protests, police appear to have resorted to arresting people for using a megaphone without a permit, for wearing masks, for chalking sayings by Mahatma Gandhi on the sidewalk, and for protecting communication equipment from the rain with a tarp.
Civil rights attorneys say they are seeking consensus from the occupation participants to get temporary restraining orders to protect the protestors’ first amendment rights of assembly.
Speaking to US Days of Rage, one of the organizing activist groups, lawyer Sam Cohen said “We believe that the NYPD has been applying the law incorrectly in an attempt to disrupt the occupation.”