The protestors had come to lower Manhattan equipped with signs, slogans and the guiding mantra of occupy Wall Street, but at 10 a.m. EDT on Monday the area in front of the New York Stock Exchange was conspicuously tranquil.
Half an hour before, more than a hundred protestors had wound their way around a maze of metal barricades blocking off the stretch of Wall Street between Broadway and William Street as a heavy contingent of police officers -- some standing stone-faced with nightsticks drawn -- tried to shepherd the crowd.
Chants of We got sold out, they got bailed out and a cacophony of whistles and drumbeats echoed off the canyon of financial offices. Protestors waved fragments of cardboard boxes bearing phrases like Get Your Money out of Government and People Over Profit.
But sustaining a multiple-day protest can be hard work -- this one began on Saturday -- and by ten o'clock the protestors were regrouping at nearby Zuccotti Park. The encampment there indicated that protestors, their numbers diminished since a Saturday peak of about 1,000, were not ready to disperse.
People recharged in sleeping bags and air mattresses laid on stone and concrete. Piles of backpacks were heaped near trash bags containing medical supplies. A woman sitting on a bench bearing aluminum trays full of bread and vegetables explained that the food was scavenged from dumpsters or bought from a communal donation pot. People seated in a circle built solidarity with a free-flowing call and response chant. (We want them to join us, power in numbers).
An Intentionally Non-Hierachical Protest
In the closest thing to a central organizing force, people sitting at two adjacent tables worked on laptops powered by portable generators, updating Twitter and posting videos of the day's events. Barbara Ross, a 48-year-old who works for the New York City based environmental organization Time's Up, explained that the protest deliberately lacked a hierarchy.
It's a leaderless movement, said Ross. It's based on individuals coming together that are not happy with the current system.
That kind of nebulous frustration ran through the crowd. Will Russell, 29-year-old biology grad student at Hunter College, criticized the regime of austerity and balancing the budgets on the backs of the middle class of the United States while Wall Street prospered.
There's a broad range of grievances in the movement but a lot of anger and discontent, said Sandy, a 27-year-old getting a master's degree in International Affairs who declined to give her last name. She also pointed to the lack of oversight, the fact that corporations have the same rights as people.
More than anything else, there was a sense that America's political system has been compromised by a symbiotic relationship between elected officials and the people who fund their campaigns.
The primary root problem is the political process is owned, said a 52-year-old software designer who gave his name only as Steve B. Why did the management of car companies have to step down but not the management of banks? Come on.