Irish Americans in New York joined forces this past Saturday to take part in the day of global protests in Manhattan which were inspired by the ongoing movement, Occupy Wall Street.
Organizers gathered on the outskirts of the now infamous Zucotti Park before marching up Broadway to Times Square on Saturday afternoon; an estimated 50 Irish Americans were involved.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters say they represent the 99 percent, in reference to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study that the wealthiest one percent of U.S. citizens control 40 percent of the American wealth.
Tyrone man Owen Rodgers who took part in Saturday's protests said, “We thought it was a good idea to get the Irish involved, because similar things are happening at home”.
After witnessing the demonstrations at an early stage, Rodgers and Deanna Slattery decided to appeal to Irish Americans in New York to get involved. They issued a statement early last week in which they urged Irish Americans to “take part in the Saturday, October 15 global protest in support of Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan”.
“I see what is happening in the financial world and the lack of jobs,” Rodgers told the Irish Voice.
“The food lines are getting longer,” said the Manhattan resident, who manages an apartment building on the Upper West Side.
After witnessing Occupy Wall Street herself, Deanna Slattery originally from Michigan was keen to rally her fellow Irish Americans.
“I thought it would be a good idea for Irish Americans to go down,” Slattery, a small business owner, told the Voice.
“While everybody is getting laid off, bank fees are going up, no one seemed to get organized and say something,” she reflects.
“It’s a really impressive group, from all walks of life and all ages.
“I am very proud of what’s going on,” she added.
Occupy Wall Street protests have now spread to Ireland
Gathering on the outskirts of the Financial District last Saturday, the group marched up Broadway towards Times Square.
“It was exhilarating,” says Slattery, who carried a tricolor.
Liam Hennessy, from Kerry, admits he was expecting to find dirty hippies when he first took a stroll down to the protests a few weeks ago.
“I wanted to see what it all was about, so I went down one Friday evening near the beginning,” the computer technician told the Voice.
The crowd was made up of “every cross section of society that you could imagine,” something he found quite bizarre.
“Generally in protests you have one section of society, be it students, union workers, elderly,” he said.
“It’s not confined to one group, everyone brings their own issues to the table, not catering for just one issue,
“I just wish the Irish people would have done this months ago,” he added.
By the time the group got to Times Square the Irish American contingent had doubled in size, according to Hennessy.
“A lot of the police officers were giving us the thumbs up because we were Irish,” Slattery added.
Meanwhile some 67 percent of New York City voters identify with the views of the Wall Street protesters according to a new study.
A Quinnipiac University survey, released on Monday, shows that 81 percent of registered Democrats, 58 percent of Independents and 35 percent of Republicans surveyed agreed with the views of the Zuccotti Park occupants. The University surveyed over 1,000 registered voters by telephone recently.
“Critics complain that no one can figure out what the protesters are protesting,” said MauriceCarroll, director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based institute. “But seven out of 10 New Yorkers say they understand and most agree with the anti- Wall Street views of the protesters.”A Sunnyside resident, Hennessy says that for those who are skeptical of the movement, he has one request.
“My biggest challenge is just go down and look,” he concluded.
The protests began over a month ago, on September 17. The efforts of those involved have motivated people across the world to participate in similar demonstrations, including protests in both Dublin and Cork. An estimated 1500 protests in 82 countries occurred this past Saturday. The cost of policing the protests now stands at $3million, according to Mayor Bloomberg.