NEW YORK -- A small but passionate crowd of activists gathered at the east end of Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Acknowledging that the decentralized protest movement has lost considerable steam since the first encampment sprouted up here on Sept. 17, 2011, attendees insisted the group’s core messages of economic fairness and corporate accountability are still worth fighting for.

“Anybody who says we’re not still relevant, they’re wrong,” Marni Halasa, a performance artist dressed in a "sexy cop" costume similar to the one she wore last year, told reporters at a press conference.

The crowd of about two dozen protesters led chants and waved makeshift signs representing numerous offshoots of the Occupy brand, including Occupy the Media, a collective of independent journalists, and Occupy Solutions, a group working toward long-term solutions to economic issues. Several attendees stretched out a banner for Occu-Evolve, a community of civil rights activists that still holds weekly meetings in New York City.   

OWS2014 Protesters hold a banner for Occu-Evolve, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, in Zuccotti Park. Photo: Christopher Zara/IBTimes

The gathering marks the third year in a row that Occupy members have assembled in the Lower Manhattan park where the movement was born. While the crowds have gotten decidedly smaller every year, those who remain say the spirit of Occupy is still very much alive. Many said they came to the park to show their support for a movement they’ve been with since the beginning.

“I’m a member of the original occupation,” said Bobby Steele, 67, a former Wall Street executive who now sports a cowboy hat, face tattoo and facial hair cut to look like Occupy’s trademark Guy Fawkes mask. “When I heard about what was going on three years ago, I had to join.”

While the Occupy brand is still thriving in various incarnations, many who were part of the first encampments abandoned the movement amid frustration over its lack of leadership and organization. Steele, who goes by “Outlaw” Bobby Steele, said he agrees with that criticism, but added that the group’s message is as important as ever, particularly as the economic mechanisms driving the country’s wealth disparity are still in place.

“I think the message will be back as soon as we get the next stock market crash,” Steele said. “With the next crash, they’ll be another wave of people losing their jobs. People will be losing money and the firms will need another bailout.”

BobbySteele “Outlaw” Bobby Steele, a former Wall Street executive, has been with Occupy since the beginning. Photo: Christopher Zara/IBTimes

Others said they came to the park not just to focus on Occupy’s anniversary, but to celebrate its achievements, including Occupy Sandy, a relief effort that helped victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Strike Debt, an Occupy offshoot that raises funds to buy up and erase debt. On Tuesday the group announced that it had wiped out almost $4 million in student loan debt.   

And even bigger Occupy-related events are yet to come. Flood Wall Street, a climate change march planned for Battery Park on Monday, has more than 2,000 guests signed up to attend on Facebook. Some at Zuccotti Park said they planned to attend as well.

If these causes seem disparate for a movement that has been criticized for its lack of focus, some Occupiers insist that’s the point. Bill Johnson, a protester who spoke to reporters Wednesday, said he welcomed the movement’s many incarnations, urging them to seek each other out and learn from each other, if only to make the movement stronger.

“Nobody has a monopoly on the truth,” he said. “Don’t be like some of those troublemakers who have come through here just trying to cause trouble. Be respectful to one another, to visitors and to this park where we began this movement three years ago.”

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