By 10 a.m., metal barricades manned by police officers ringed the blocks of Wall Street between Broadway and William Street to the east. (In a statement, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman said, “A protest area was established on Broad Street at Exchange Street, next to the stock exchange, but protesters elected not to use it.”)
Organizers, promoters and supporters called the day, which had been widely discussed on Twitter and other social media sites, simply September 17. Some referred to it as the United States Day of Rage, an apparent reference to a series of disruptive protests against the Vietnam War held in Chicago in 1969.
The idea, according to some organizers, was to camp out for weeks or even months to replicate the kind, if not the scale, of protests that erupted earlier this year in places as varied as Egypt, Spain and Israel.
Throughout the afternoon hundreds of demonstrators gathered in parks and plazas in Lower Manhattan. They held teach-ins, engaged in discussion and debate and waved signs with messages like “Democracy Not Corporatization” or “Revoke Corporate Personhood.”
Organizers said the rally was meant to be diverse, and not all of the participants were on the left. Followers of the right-wing figure Lyndon LaRouche formed a choir near Bowling Green and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Nearby, anarchists carried sleeping bags and tents.
NY Mayor sees Rovolt in the Offing
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that high U.S. unemployment could lead to the same kind of riots here that have swept through Europe and North Africa.
“You have a lot of kids graduating college, [who] can’t find jobs,” said Bloomberg, during his weekly radio show on Friday. “That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.”
That was the mayor’s response when asked about the poverty rate, which rose to 15.1% in 2010, its highest level since 1993, according to census data released Tuesday. About 46.2 million people are now living in poverty, 2.6 million more than last year.
“The public is not happy,” he said. “The public knows there is something wrong in this country, and there is. The bottom line is that they’re upset.”
Riots have gripped various countries in European cities, including Athens and London, fueled by young people infuriated by high unemployment and austerity measures, which in some cases has led to looting. High unemployment among youth is also one of the driving forces behind the Arab Spring, as impoverished protestors in North Africa and the Middle East rose up against their heavy-handed governments.
“The damage to a generation that can’t find jobs will go on for many, many years,” said Bloomberg.
The mayor, an independent, criticized the partisan politics that have stymied progress in Congress, and the inability of Republicans and Democrats to compromise on ways to fix the economy.
“There is no overnight solution,” he said. “You look at the president’s proposals. At least he’s got some ideas on the table, whether you like those or not.”
“The only way you solve this problems is that everybody pays a little more and everybody gets a little less,” he added.
The economy added no jobs in August, according to the Labor Department, for the first time since February, 1945.
The unemployment rate is 9.1%, but many experts say that figure is misleading. They prefer to use the so-called underemployment rate, which includes people who have given up their search for jobs as well as people who want to work full-time but are forced to work part-time.
The underemployment rate is 16.2%.