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Wall Street protesters to cops: Mass arrests only make us stronger

Protesters at Zuccotti Park

Protesters at Zuccotti Park Photo Credit: Protesters at Zuccotti Park on Sunday / Marc Beja

A day after more than 700 protesters were arrested for disrupting traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, their ranks swelled Sunday at the Financial District’s Zuccotti Park, their home for two weeks and counting. And they have no plans to close up shop.

“Arrested yesterday, back today,” read a sign held by Robert Cammiso, 48, of Park Slope, who said he was among the hundreds rounded up by police Saturday. On the other side of his poster: “Arrest one of us and two more will appear.”

That appeared to be the case Sunday, as the crowd was noticeably bigger than just a few days earlier. The protesters enjoyed a similar boost in size — and morale — last weekend, after at least 80 were arrested near Union Square and online videos showed several of them getting pepper-sprayed, thrown to the ground and shoved by police. The NYPD is investigating one such incident.

“This will go on until the government recognizes the 99% of people in this country who do not hold the wealth and pursue policies that address our needs,” said Cammiso, who lost his construction management job in 2009.

The consensus among the protesters — who are already prepping for the cold of winter — is to hold fort at the park indefinitely.

The activists give many different goals for the protest, without specifying what action would satisfy their demands. But at the end of the day, they all want changes in social and economic policies that favor America’s wealthiest.

Mark Cruz, of Framingham, Mass., who said he lost home last year and his job two years ago, suggested the government step in to prevent foreclosures, stop public sector layoffs and hire people for construction on infrastructure.

For Steve Shorts, 29, of Philadelphia, the protest is about ridding politics of corporate influences and money, and the government helping to generate jobs.

“We’re sick of it. We’re all poor, we’re all out of work,” said Shorts, who said he lost his job last week after the painter he worked for suddenly died. “We all voted for change and it’s not happening fast enough.”


Protesters talk about why they joined

Albert Sgambati, 55, of Chelsea
“I’m presently unemployed for the first time in my life at 55 years old,” said Sgambati, who said he watched his teaching job at the CUNY research foundation slip from full to part-time, and then to none at all last October when it lost its funding.
“I’ve paid for 10 years of war, I’ve paid to bail out the banks,” said Sgambati. “What I’ve been paid back with is unemployment.”

John Collins, 52, of Morningside Heights
Collins, a Columbia University philosophy professor, said he joined Friday’s rally against the NYPD after watching a video of a police official pepper-spraying female protesters in the face last weekend.
He pledged to continue protesting a few days each week, and expects to do so through the spring.
“If it shifts the center of political discourse in this country, that in itself will be a victory,” Collins said.


Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @Marc_Beja.

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