Crowd Buzzes with Energy from Foley Square to Brooklyn Bridge

Originally published on NYCityLens.com as a collaborative, special coverage of Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Day of Action’.

By Amy Chyan and Julie Percha

Hundreds of protesters took to Foley Square Thursday, braving the chilly temperatures for a Brooklyn Bridge march to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Demonstrators brandishing trombones, snare drums, tambourines and even plastic buckets made music and kept the beat. Supporters followed the sound throughout the square, dancing for enjoyment and to keep warm.

Occupy Wall Street protestors at Foley Square. (Photo: Amy Chyan)

Mix in New York Police Department sirens and group chants of “We are the 99 percent,” and Foley Square buzzed with energy.

Along the square’s north border on Worth Street, Rose Bookbinder, 28, handed out battery-operated tea light candles from a large cardboard box.

She and fellow protesters distributed 10,000 candles, which were funded through Occupy Wall Street donations, she said. Bookbinder encouraged protesters to carry the candles as a message.

“We’re gonna be taking the Brooklyn Bridge as a symbol that we need to rebuild jobs here and shine a light on democracy,” Bookbinder said.

Nearby, police in riot gear directed traffic from behind plastic netting-turned-barricades. Many carried plastic zip-ties as makeshift handcuffs, hanging casually from their belt loops.

Economics professor Arin Dube, 38, arrived in New York Thursday morning from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to attend a conference on the American middle class.

He planned an extra day into the trip to take his economics teachings from the classroom to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“Talking about the health of the middle class — that’s happening here in Foley Square, more than at any conference,” Dube said. “A lot of people are mad.”

He was there with Ethan Kaplan, 42, of Harlem, a fellow economics professor at Columbia University.

As Foley Square thickened with chanting crowds, Kaplan shouldered his 2-year-old son, Gabriel. The blue-eyed boy sleepily clutched a toy truck as his mittens dangled from his hands.

Amy Parent OWS
Photo: Amy Chyan/NY City Lens

“I think it’s great for him to be exposed to demonstrations when he’s young,” said Kaplan, adding that Gabriel’s 8:30 p.m. bedtime was soon approaching. “I hope that he ends up having values that are similar to my own.”

Protesters gradually made their way toward Brooklyn Bridge, their chanting growing more lively. High above the din, NYPD helicopters zipped between tall office buildings, only noticeable because of the spotlights they were casting.

The smattering of protest signs above the crowd seemed not to send a unified message: “We Shall Overcome,” “No gas pipeline,” “Police state: We haz one.”

Standing among the crowd was Sam Talbot, 34, of the East Village. He brandished a five-foot cutout of an angry, clenched fist as part of the Jobless Organizing Brigade, an unemployment action group affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Talbot graduated from culinary school and used to be a chef, but he lost his job in 2009. He tried searching for work, he said, but it was too difficult.

“The restaurant industry is pretty badly messed up,” he said. “It’s a low-wage industry and pretty exploitative.”

Talbot since joined the Jobless Organizing Brigade — a gig that requires regular hours, but still doesn’t pay. Instead, he lives off his wife’s salary with UNITE HERE, a city restaurant and hotel union.

“This is work, but it’s not a job,” he said. “But I’ve been poorer. Put it that way.”

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