Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York plan marches and a candlelight vigil over the coming weekend to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Demonstrators plan to assemble on Jan. 15 on the steps of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, organizers said today in a statement. From there, they’ll march to nearby Riverside Church for a candlelight vigil to “honor the spirit” of King, who was born on that day in 1929, according to the statement.
The vigil at Riverside Church, where King spoke in 1967, will feature performances by musicians Patti Smith and Steve Earle as well as speeches by Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons. The next morning, protesters plan a march in lower Manhattan from the African Burial Ground National Monument to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Federal and state offices will be closed to honor King’s birthday.
The marches were announced the day after metal barricades surrounding the protest’s original home in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan were removed following a request by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The groups wrote Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, urging him to ensure that the park is “open and accessible to all members of the public,” according to a statement from the NYCLU.
The barriers went up after police evicted demonstrators from the park in November.
Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department, said in an e-mail that the removal was “unrelated to the letter,” and the barriers could be restored any time they’re needed.
The demonstrations began on Sept. 17 when several dozen protesters took up residence in the park to highlight the plight of average Americans who have suffered from home foreclosures and soaring unemployment while the largest U.S. banks have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.
The protests attracted thousands to Zuccotti Park and spread to U.S. cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as overseas to London, Rome and Tokyo.
The demonstrators refer to themselves as “the 99 percent,” a reference to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the richest 1 percent of the population control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.
More than 1,800 people have been charged in connection with the protests in New York since they began in September, according to Browne.