Occupy Wall Street marks first anniversary

New York police arrest more than 100 activists one year after movement launched wave of global anti-capitalist protests.

Occupy Wall Street Camp In Zuccotti Park Cleared By NYPD
The number of tweets about Occupy Wall Street has declined sharply, along with the size of protests [GALLO/GETTY]

New York police have arrested more than 100 Occupy Wall Street activists who had gathered in the city’s financial district as part of a day of protests to mark the movement’s first anniversary.

About 1,000 activists sought to disrupt traffic and surround the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday.

The rally attracted far fewer demonstrators than last autumn’s numbers, highlighting the challenge the movement has faced in trying to sustain momentum after sparking a national conversation about economic inequality in late 2011.

The New York Police Department, which set up a broad perimeter to block access to the NYSE by anyone other than exchange workers, said it had made “multiple arrests” by mid-morning.

Police were also posted at major banks and government buildings, and guarded Wall Street’ landmark Charging Bull, a 7,100 pound bronze sculpture.

‘The 99 per cent’

Gideon Orion Oliver, the president of the New York Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild who represents a number of the protesters, estimated in a Twitter posting that 104 protesters had been arrested.

Among those detained was retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, who was also arrested last December.

Occupy Wall Street protesters, who popularised the phrase “We are the 99 per cent”, gathered early on Monday near Zuccotti Park, where a spontaneous encampment became their unofficial headquarters last year, but were again barred access by police.

Several protesters held signs, one saying “END the FED”, another reading: “We Are Students, Not Customers”.

The grassroots movement caught the world by surprise last year with a spontaneous encampment in lower Manhattan that soon spread to cities across North America and Europe.

The group sponsored a series of activities over the weekend, attended by crowds that never exceeded the hundreds. New York police arrested about three dozen people at those events.

Events were planned for Monday in more than 30 cities worldwide. In San Francisco, they include an afternoon march to the Financial District and an evening rally outside Bank of America.

Twitter decline

The decentralised, largely leaderless social protest movement has seen a drop in support since it began on September 17, 2011, when hundreds of people occupied and camped out in Zuccotti Park.

Organisers had hoped the occasion of the anniversary might rejuvenate a movement that, to many, is now a shadow of its former self.

The Twitter volume of the hash tag ‘#OWS’ during the past year

Critics of Occupy Wall Street contend that the movement grew too large too quickly, and that the protests, initially about income inequality in the US, became less focused.

Remaining occupiers say the movement still exists but that media attention has dropped off.

Activists say they keep in touch online through the websites and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that initially helped propel the movement, and organise meetings when needed.

Analysis by Al Jazeera of the number of times the hash tag “#OWS” has been used on Twitter over the past year shows a first major spike in traffic in September last year following the occupation of Zuccotti Park.

Traffic rose steadily in the second half of the month, coinciding with the release of a video on YouTube that depicted protesters being pepper-sprayed by police officers.

A second surge happened during November 13-21, with about 1.1 million tweets using the hashtag.

The rise coincided with police efforts to forcibly evict protesters staying in the park after a judge upheld the City of New York’s decision to clear it and bar occupiers from camping there.

After that, the use of “#OWS” saw a sharp decline, with occasional minor resurgences.

Source: Al Jazeera