One year later, Occupy Wall Street is quieter, smaller and less remarkable. But its resurgence in Lower Manhattan this week shows that many people still hold strong negative feelings toward all things capitalist — especially banks.
Protestors gathered in downtown Manhattan on Monday morning, to mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy campaign and to re-inject some momentum into a movement that largely fell dormant last winter. About 1,000 people attended the protests, according to Reuters; by mid-morning, their numbers appeared diminished, as New York City police officers and mazes of barricades choked off their routes to many of the industry's most important buildings on Wall Street.
The Occupy movement has been criticized for lacking focus and for protesting everything from student loans to energy "fracking" policies. But on Monday, banks were once again a primary target of the crowd's anger.
One protestor handed out casino chips that read, "Wall Street is a Crooked Casino." Next to him, Stephanie Shockley, an Episcopalian priest, stuffed balloons into a giant grey cloth boulder meant to represent various types of consumer debt, including student loans, payday loans and medical bills. People stopped by to write their debt complaints on the boulder: "Wells Fargo: $200,000 underwater mortgage," "Student Loan Corp.: $35,000 (14 years after graduation)."
"We were thinking of the Greek myth of Sisyphus," who was condemned by the gods to endlessly repeat the task of rolling a boulder up a hill and then watching it roll back down, Shockley said.
She and her husband, Dan Shockley, said that they wanted to represent the frustration of trying to pay back various types of debts in a system that they and many Occupy members see as rigged against consumers.
"You try to find ways to work with lenders and they don't work with you. If you declare bankruptcy, student loans aren't forgiven … and they can garnish your wages," she said.
Some protesters tried to take their anger directly to the banks. About 50 people stormed the lobby of a JPMorgan Chase (JPM) office building at 4 New York Plaza, according to the New York Daily News (which has its headquarters in the same building).
But by mid-morning, most bank buildings downtown were calmer — and well-protected by police, security guards and some barricades. While chants and marching continued in front of Trinity Church, customers and employees along Broadway walked easily into another Chase branch, a Bank of America (BAC) branch, a Citigroup (NYSE: C) branch and the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY) headquarters.