Demonstrators gather in front of a police barricade to call for the occupation of Wall Street, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in New York. / AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
NEW YORK - A coalition of groups who say they've been inspired by "Arab Spring" protests against Middle Eastern despots has initiated a large, Tahrir Square-like protest in New York City, in the heart of the financial district.
On Saturday, about 1,000 people converged on Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan, near the financial district, to protest the influence of corporate money in American politics. Some will pitch tents with the intention of sitting in for a couple of months.
Organizers of the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstration have called for 20,000 people to "flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months."
The protesters seek to persuade President Barack Obama to establish a commission that would end "the influence money has over representatives in Washington."
Their website is occupywallst.org.
"Something is going to happen Sept. 17 on Wall Street. What it's going to be is up to all of us," Bill Csapo, a volunteer organizer for the event, told CBS Station WCBS.
"I don't think anybody that anybody can look at the political and economic landscape we have now in Washington and not come to the conclusion that the system is broken," Csapo said. "The main focus is the toxic and corrupting effect of unlimited money on the political situation, which would be called a Corporate-ocracy, not Democracy.
"We need to get government back into the hands of the 99 percent, not the one percent," Csapo said. "Right now, the law is currently written for the one percent, and we are seeing an incredible amount of wealth being extracted."
Among the affiliates groups is the 99 Percent Project, whose site advocates for the 99 percent who are "getting kicked out of our homes ... forced to choose between groceries and rent ... denied quality medical care ... working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all.
"We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything."
The original call to occupy Wall Street was put out by the advocacy group Adbusters. NYC General Assembly and U.S. Day of Rage have joined, and similar occupations are being planned for Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.
The hacker/protest group Anonymous also reportedly threw its support behind the Sept. 17 protest, according to WCBS.