Occupy Wall Street marked its 1-year anniversary in New York on Monday. Dozens of Occupy Wall Street protestors were arrested during a march toward the New York Stock Exchange on the anniversary of the grass-roots movement.
The Occupy movement, fractured and struggling for relevancy a year after its birth, marked its anniversary Monday with marches and sit-ins at its place of origin: the hub of the American financial system.
Several hundred protesters from Occupy Wall Street, the group that spawned countless offspring in cities around the country, moved into downtown Manhattan, staging a rush-hour sit-in near Trinity Church. Their plan to converge on the New York Stock Exchange was thwarted by a wall of police officers on horses and in riot gear.
The protesters swarmed through surrounding streets, clogging traffic. They gathered outside investment bank Brown Brothers Harriman, formed a drum circle at Trinity Church, sang songs in Battery Park.
"We're just at year one. We have a really big mountain to climb. But we're hoping to get the power back to the people," Kim Fraczek, 37, told NBC News. She wore an Obama mask and was with Erik McGregor, 44, who had on a Romney one. They said they were aiming to show the two candidates were controlled by money.
More than 180 people were arrested as of Monday evening. Those removed included four protesters in wheelchairs who blocked a busy street. That's on top of the dozen or so arrested during pre-anniversary events over the weekend.
Among those taken into custody was Episcopal Bishop George Packard, a decorated Vietnam vet who served as a military chaplain during the Iraq War, the New York Daily News reported.
While protesters clashed with police, workers trying to get to the office had to show identification to get past security barricades.
The sounds of drums and other musical instruments filled the air as protesters chanted: "One, two, three, four, I declare class war," NBC New York reported.
Other demonstrators tossed confetti and glitter, according to NBC News. Some sang "Happy Birthday." A group marched into a Bank of America branch dressed as polar bears and then formed a meditation circle.
"It's kind of a day of reflection, a day of celebration, a day that reflects some collective muscle and show of force. And I also think to remind not just ourselves but the world ... that things haven't really gotten better in the last year. In many ways they have gotten worse," college student Ian Williams, 27, told NBC News. "And the project we're sort of embarking upon is a long term one."
The Daily News spoke to Nancy Mancias, 42, of San Francisco, who wore a shocking pink bra on her head. "I don't think Occupy is dead,” she said. “I think it's exciting to be here and see the variety of people, the ages, all sorts."
In San Francisco, several hundred protesters gathered in front of the Wells Fargo headquarters, marched past the Federal Reserve building and chanted, "The system has got to die, happy birthday Occupy," NBC Bay Area reported.
Demonstrators also gathered in Chicago for a march and a rally to discuss the movement's milestones, NBC 5 Chicago reported.
But the protesters nationwide did not appear to draw anywhere near the numbers, or attention, as the Wall Street action. And the numbers were down sharply from the crowds of thousands that marked the movement's early days.
The relatively muted response raised questions about the movement's ability to sustain itself. Occupy has become a catchphrase for discontent over perceived injustices, but it also lacks central leadership and vision. The aversion to authority and dogma was part of the original design. But that also may turn out to be the cause of its undoing.
The marches, demonstrations and sit-ins to protest economic inequalities that began in New York spread across the country in the fall of 2011. But it lost momentum last winter, when protesters were systematically evicted from the parks and other public spaces they'd commandeered. In many places, including New York, the encampments devolved into quarreling and violence. Some police departments, including Oakland's, came under fire for using excessive force.
Despite an attempt to coalesce during certain big events, including May Day, the NATO summit in Chicago and the national political conventions, the Occupy movement is generally only as strong as its individual groups, which seem to operate with their own ad hoc agenda. They typically focus their attention on local issues, such as public-university tuition, foreclosures, police shootings, or the corporate renaming of a football stadium. Often their actions are more symbolic, like demonstrations outside a local bank branch. Some have tried to retake the parks they were kicked out of.
Even the name means different things to different people. "Occupy" has been attached to just about anything a group of people are angry about, particularly when it comes to income inequality. Some signs have exclaimed, simply, "Occupy Everything."
Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that helped ignite the movement, said that was a good thing. "All around the world, that youthful spirit of revolt is alive and well," she told the Associated Press.
The Occupiers have divided the public. There is empathy among people who feel angry about the sputtering economy, and there is anger and frustration among those who see the protesters as complaining for complaining's sake.
The movement is also divided from within.
In New York, the group that took shape in Zuccotti Park still exists, albeit in a far less cohesive form, the AP reported. Occupiers mostly keep in touch online, share conference calls and produce Occupy-affiliated newsletters. The movement's remaining $85,000 in assets were frozen, though fundraising continues, according to the AP.
Similar developments have weakened Occupy organizers in other cities. In Oakland, the encampment in the City Hall lawn where protesters clashed with police is gone, and a metal fence surrounds the site, the AP reported.
"I don't think Occupy itself has an enormous future," Fordham University professor Mark Naison told the AP. But he added, "I think that movements energized by Occupy have an enormous future."
"This is a movement. It's only been a year," Justin Stone Diaz of Brooklyn told NBC New York as he participated in Monday's demonstrations. "It's going to take many years for it to develop and figure out exactly who we are."