New York City activists, angry at having been evicted from their encampment, began a "Day of Action" Thursday in an attempt to disrupt the New York Stock Exchange and transit in the city. Police arrested about 177 Occupy Wall Street protesters by the end of the day for actions like obstructing traffic and resisting arrests, officials say.
One protester who was arrested threw a liquid that stung, possibly vinegar, in the faces of officers, said police.
Protest organizers claim today's events, falling on the two-month anniversary of the Occupy movement, will be their biggest yet. A New York City deputy mayor said yesterday that officials are bracing for the possibility that thousands may try to clog subways and bridges. Occupy protesters in other US cities are also planning disruptions.
"Otherwise it was orderly, with employees and residents using IDs to enter Wall St in vicinity of the exchange," said one senior New York City official, after the NYSE opened without incident. At nearby Zuccotti Park, police in riot gear held back a crowd of several hundred protesters.
Christopher Guerra, who formerly worked at the "information desk" at Zuccotti Park before protesters were evicted, gathered with others near the stock exchange.
"I say we shut the whole country down," Guerra said.
The group in a news release announced it would rally near the New York Stock Exchange, then head to subways and march over the Brooklyn Bridge. "Resist austerity. Rebuild the economy. Reclaim our democracy," the group wrote.
"The protesters are calling for a massive event aimed at disrupting major parts of the city," New York Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said in a news conference. "We will be prepared for that."
Amid reports that protesters would don suits and try to infiltrate the financial district, New York police this morning were asking people going to the Wall Street area to show company IDs indicating they belong there, WABC-TV reported.
Mayor Bloomberg told an audience of business leaders this morning that the protests are a dire sign of the public's economic fears.
"We're coming to a point where Occupy Wall Street is just the beginning, the Tea Party is just the beginning," he said. "The public is getting scared. They don't know what to do, and they're going to strike out, and they don't know where."
Amid arrests and scattered violence, Occupy groups around the country have been evicted in recent days from campsites in Portland, Oregon; Denver, Oakland, New York, St. Louis and other cities. Meantime, the movement's system for self-governance has been evolving, and its character has grown "more militant" in the words of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine and activist organization that originally gave rise to Occupy.
Adbusters reports the change in self-governance occurred in late October, when the "structure working group" of OWS's General Assembly pushed through a "modified spokes council model" that lays the foundation for a far larger, even global spokescouncil.
"We are beginning to see," says an Adbusters member, "how the Occupy movement will elevate itself into an international force."
In the U.S., its support from organized labor is increasing, as is its willingness to engage in violence, manifested by property damage in Oakland and other cities.
Meantime, a recent survey of OWS members by Hector R. Cordero-Guzman, Ph.D, of the School of Public Affairs at New York's Baruch College, sheds new light on who they are: Young (64.2 percent are under 34), well educated, white (81.3 percent) and male (67 percent). Only half are employed full-time. Over 70 percent say they are independents politically, 27 percent are Democrats, 2.5 percent are Republicans.
Experts, taking these developments and others into account, predict varying futures for Occupy.
Vincent Schiavone, founder and chairman of ListenLogic, a company that monitors social and business trends by analyzing everything from social network chatter to the content of religious sermons, doesn't see OWS going away anytime soon. To the contrary, he says, its presence on social media is "very much growing."
More people are joining—students especially. "There's increased activity on campus." He sees an increased sophistication in how OWS communicates: "They had live blogging of Tuesday night's New York City police action, minute by minute."
There are other ways, says Schiavone, that the OWS of today differs from what the movement was a month ago: There's an increased truculence, he says, as illustrated by protesters' signs making such threats as "Rich, beware. Your days are numbered."
"The words and images are darker, more violent. You see protesters covering their faces now, which they didn't do before." There's more talk of revolution. Increasingly, he says, the targets are conservative political figures. Just yesterday, for example, Herman Cain canceled an appearance in Iowa when his campaign learned that Occupy protesters had targeted it.
He finds it curious that Occupy Oakland chose the Port of Oakland as the prime focus for its general strike, since neither the port nor the shipping industry had figured previously as an Occupy villain. Why didn't they go after some big bank, say, or some other financial target? Schiavone believes the choice is proof of organized labor's increasing involvement in and support of the movement. Unions who support OWS now include the UAW, the SEIU, the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters.
Since Occupy's encampments are only one manifestation of the movement's strength, he doesn't see the loss of them—whether to police actions or winter and weather-related abandonment—as relevant. "It's sustainable without the encampments," he said. What's more significant, he thinks, is the growing number of people involved in the movement online around the world. "Physical encampments, it's true, may be shrinking. But the 'online' encampment, you could say, is growing dramatically."
The most surprising prediction may belong to John Friedman, a senior columnist for Dow Jones' MarketWatch, who sees ad agencies, marketing companies, and other stalwarts of mainstream U.S. business figuring out ways to make money off the very protesters now vowing to pull down the establishment. "It wouldn't surprise me," Friedman says, "to see some shrewd marketing professional on Madison Avenue hungrily eyeing the commercial potential of the rallies."
Farfetched? Not at all, he argues, pointing to how advertisers managed in the early '70s to co-opt the symbols, dress and music of '60s counter-culture radicals. In what he calls a "grotesque premonition," he imagines a future where "breathless New York City tour guides will lead groups to visit the demonstrators.
Remember when tourists flocked in the 1960s to the hippie Haight-Ashbury to 'see the freaks'?"
ABC News' Mark Crudele and Alyssa Newcomb contributed to this report.