Protests draw star power

Pepper spray hits nerve on Wall St.

Posted: September 28, 2011

Wall Street protesters, joined Tuesday by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, vowed to continue weeks of demonstrations after police squirted pepper spray at some participants and arrests mounted.

About 100 people camped out with mattresses and sleeping bags in Zuccotti Park as demonstrations against what they called greed by financial-services firms and social inequality continued for an 11th day.

Sarandon, who appeared last year in Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, toured an area that includes a makeshift kitchen and library with titles such as The Wage Slave's Glossary and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

"I'm here to understand what's going on and to lend my support," Sarandon said. "There's a lot of different kinds of people here who want to shift the paradigm to something that's addressing the huge gap between the rich and the poor."

The group plans to march through the financial district each business day to mark the New York Stock Exchange's opening and closing bells. The protest, dubbed "Occupy Wall Street," aims to get President Obama to establish a commission to end "the influence money has over our representatives in Washington," according to the website of Adbusters, a group promoting the demonstration.

"We're raising awareness of the fact that the current economic system is changeable," said Dylan O'Keefe, 19, of Northampton, Mass., who said he attended about five days of protests. "I really don't have faith in the political process anymore, mostly because of corporate interests. I don't even plan on voting."

About 80 of the 100 people arrested since the demonstrations began were taken into custody Saturday, when a police officer used pepper spray "in a continuum of force that obviated the use of batons," Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department, said in an e-mail.

"Protesters who engage in civil disobedience can expect to be arrested," Browne said. "Those who resist arrest can expect some measure of force will be used in making them."

The march Saturday and the use of pepper spray "really inspired me to come here," said Esther Martin, 24, of New Orleans, who said she had a temporary job selling Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe posters before joining the protest. "It's giving a body to the discontent people feel from not having jobs or money, and the disappointment about bailouts for Wall Street."

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