At Occupy camps, a time for thanks and turkey

Posted: November 25, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - Most Americans spent Thanksgiving snug inside homes with families and football. Others used the holiday to give thanks alongside strangers at outdoor Occupy encampments, serving turkey or donating their time in solidarity with the anti-Wall Street movement that has gripped a nation consumed by economic despair.

In San Francisco, 400 occupiers at a plaza in the financial district were served traditional Thanksgiving fixings sent by the renowned Glide Memorial Church to volunteers and supporters of the movement fighting social and economic inequality.

"We are thankful that we are, first and foremost, in a country where we can protest," said the Rev. Cecil Williams, the founder of Glide and a fixture in the city's activist community. "And we are thankful that we believe that there are things that could be worked out and that we have a sense of hope. But we know that hope only comes when you make a stand."

While the celebration remained peaceful in San Francisco, an amplified version of a family Thanksgiving squabble erupted in New York when police ordered a halt to drumming by protesters at an otherwise traditional holiday meal.

About 500 protesters were digging into donated turkey and trimmings at lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, when police told a drummer to stop playing.

About 200 protesters surrounded a group of about 30 officers and began shouting in the park where the Occupy movement was launched on Sept. 17.

"Why don't you stop being cops for Thanksgiving?" yelled one protester.

"Why don't you arrest the drummers in the Thanksgiving parade?" hollered another.

A van rolled up with more officers, but they stayed back as protesters eventually decided to call off the drumming and return to their food. Tensions have run high at the park since campers were evicted on Nov. 15.

Protester Chris Coon wandered into Zuccotti in a Santa Claus suit with a list of "naughty" people that included former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Bank of America foreclosed on the North Pole, then I flew here in my sleigh and the NYPD towed my sleigh," Coon said. "So now I'm here in Zuccotti Park protesting the 1 percent."

Restaurants and individual donors prepared more than 3,000 meals for the gathering at Zuccotti.

Demonstrators nationwide say they are protesting corporate greed and the concentration of wealth in the upper 1 percent of the population.

The movement was triggered by the high rate of unemployment and foreclosures, as well as the growing perception that big banks and corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, yet are taking in huge bonuses while most Americans have seen their incomes drop.

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