Occupiers bring their message to Washington Square


By Cynthia Magnus

Making another foray from their Zuccotti Park base in Lower Manhattan, more than 1,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters swarmed into Washington Square Park on Saturday afternoon.

However, in this case, the occupation was only temporary. After about three or four hours — during which they held a one-hour “general assembly” — they departed in the early evening and headed back Downtown.

Although college students have swelled the ranks of Occupy Wall Street, there are educators among them, too. After all, they say, they can see the burdens that their pupils are saddled with and the hardship it’s causing them.

“I’m chiefly concerned with the cost of education,” said George Stoney, a professor at N.Y.U.’s Tisch School of the Arts and an acclaimed documentarian.

“My students and their parents are getting into huge amounts of debt, and that’s wrong.”

One so-called “facilitator” of the leaderless protest movement told the crowd, “We are here to let people know that we are all part of this movement that is meant to hold political and economic elites accountable.” He was referring to the 1 percent of the population that the protesters claim holds most economic and political power in the U.S.

Helena, a protest volunteer in Zuccotti Park, said that the objective for assembling in Washington Square on Oct. 8 was “to occupy two places in New York.” But she added, she didn’t think the intention would ever be to have the protestors try to sleep in Washington Square — though, she said, it was possible they may use the space again.

A neighborhood resident who only gave her name as Ellen, a retired businesswoman in her 80s, voiced general support for the demonstrators.

“Getting jobs is the biggest problem for young people right now,” she said. She was pleased with the large turnout, but observed, “There aren’t very many black people here.” She said if the protesters decided to occupy the park, “I wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t try to stop it.”

Another longtime Greenwich Village resident, Sandy, said she uses the park to sit and chat with neighbors. She said if the protesters established a regular presence in the square, “the neighborhood would feel the loss of space. It’s the only place that has any nature in the area.”

Some of the Washington Square chess players were also less than welcoming to the temporary occupiers.

“If their main concern is down on Wall St., I don’t see why they would come here,” said Johnny.

Another chess player, John, added, “They don’t have to invade everyone’s spaces just to get their point across. I think that’s wrong.”

A Police Department lieutenant at the scene said that in traveling between Zuccotti Park and Washington Square the protesters were “staying on the sidewalk and doing everything they’re supposed to do.”

Stoney, for one, said he was encouraged to see the occupation visit Washington Square, albeit briefly.

“When I first discovered this park in the 1930s there was a great deal of public activity,” he said. “I’m delighted to see it become a center of political action again.”

N.Y.U. Professor George Stoney came to Washington Square on Saturday to support Occupy Wall Street.