U. students participate in Wall Street protests
NEW YORK CITY — The New York City Police Department arrested more than 700 protesters at the Brooklyn Bridge as thousands marched on Saturday from Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan into Brooklyn as part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which is now on Day 18.
A handful of University students participated in the protests, including Rutgers University Student Assembly President Matt Cordeiro and RUSA representative to the University’s Board of Governors Kristen Clark. No University students were arrested.
The movement protests the corporate greed and influence of corporations and money in government, said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
“The movement is trying to do something really positive,” he said. “People are upset, concerned and angry about the current economic and political situation.”
Police allowed protesters to walk on the bridge’s pedestrian walkway, but some broke off and protested in the street instead, said a spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information.
This forced police to close the Manhattan-outbound side of the bridge for three hours while they arrested the group of protesters, the DCPI spokesman said.
“Anyone on the walkway was fine, anyone in a traffic lane was arrested,” he said. “[Protesters in the traffic lane] had the chance to leave but they chose not to.”
Cordeiro heard about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement through Reddit.com. He was impressed by how the protest took shape quickly and was organized despite lacking a leader.
“I was here the first day, and now two weeks later there are more identified goals and better organization,” he said.
“Occupy Wall Street” participants hope to convene in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street businesses for months, said Clark, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
“It shows that people here are in it for the long haul and here to disrupt Wall Street,” she said. “A protest is just a one day thing and then business goes back to normal.”
The movement aims to take away corporate and governmental influence, Cordeiro said.
“One main idea is to push for campaign finance reform,” he said. “We don’t want voices to be drowned out because someone else has more money.”
Clark said she agrees with the aims of the movement and thinks other people deserve the money used to bailout Wall Street corporations.
“We’re protesting corporate greed. Wall Street got an $800 billion bailout, and no one is doing anything to help the other 99 percent,” she said.
The movement began on Sept. 17, according to the organization’s website occupywallstreet.org, and Cordeiro said at least 45 University students have attended “Occupy Wall Street” protests since.
Matthew D’Elia, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, was also at the protest and said the movement took hold because people are unsatisfied.
“Right now the elites are shutting people [out] with less power,” he said. “People are here to speak out, people need to feel empowered.”
The disparate economic gap between the wealthy and the middle class motivates many of the movement’s participants, Cordeiro said.
“There is a large divide between the rich and the poor, the stratification that exists now has not been seen since the Great Depression,” he said.
While some criticize “Occupy Wall Street” protesters for using products and services of Wall Street corporations, Cordeiro said he does not see it as hypocritical.
“I don’t think there is necessarily an inconsistency. There is a system that people live in,” he said. “We should focus on one thing at a time, and the first [thing] we [to] need focus on is to take money out of politics.”
He said there are not just young people involved in the protests.
“The movement does have more younger people, but it is still a diverse group of people,” he said. “But I don’t think we should judge people on how they look.”
Cordeiro, who does not agree with all of the protestors’ behaviors, believes the movement is worthwhile.
“I don’t agree with everything, I don’t agree with all the tactics. [But] people here are trying to do something really positive,” he said.
The protest also included five members of the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, said coalition member Tina Weishaus.
Weishaus, a 60-year-old Highland Park resident, was glad people staged “Occupy Wall Street.”
“We’re thrilled, we’ve been waiting for the young to become active,” she said.
Cordeiro said he was not representing RUSA or the University in any way at the protests.
“I am only here in the capacity of a concerned Rutgers student,” he said.