The protest dubbed Occupy Wall Street kicked off September 17, targeting a litany of grievances
Hundreds of young activists protesting the Wall Street bailout and corporate influence in US politics defied police for a ninth day and said arrests over the weekend strengthened their resolve
The rag-tag protest even got a boost late Monday with a surprise visit by Michael Moore, the highly successful leftwing documentary filmmaker.
"I am so impressed by what I see here. You have done something very important and very historic," Moore said to cheers.
Earlier, more than 200 demonstrators marched from their camp at Zuccotti Park, in the heart of Manhattan's financial district, to the New York Stock Exchange. Banging drums and blowing whistles, they chanted: "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."
All along their route they were accompanied by dozens of police, including senior commanders. There were no arrests.
The protest dubbed Occupy Wall Street kicked off September 17, targeting corporate greed and political influence, the government bailouts for banks during the 2008 financial crisis, capital punishment, and a litany of other grievances.
The huge crowds organizers hoped for never materialized, but between 200 and 300 protesters have remained camped in Zuccotti Park ever since.
It is one of the longest street protests in New York in recent memory and an especially unusual event in lower Manhattan, among the most heavily policed neighborhoods in the world.
On Saturday, the standoff between the noisy, but peaceful demonstrators and large numbers of New York Police Department officers deployed to monitor them turned ugly.
Police arrested more than 80 people after a crowd marched north to the bustling Union Square neighborhood.
According to the NYPD, the protesters were impeding traffic and some resisted arrest and had to be manhandled.
According to protesters, police were in some cases brutally excessive.
Video shot of the clash and posted on several news websites and the protesters' https://occupywallst.org/ site shows a senior officer in a white shirt spraying Mace into the faces of two women who appear to pose no threat.
The spraying of the women turned into a public relations setback for police and a boost for the protesters, who until this weekend had been largely ignored by mainstream US media. By Monday, TV networks including Fox News were reporting from the protest camp.
"Everyone is pretty upset by the violence, but it did help us. It got the word out," said one protester, Steve Smith, 24. "It brought people to us, brought donations to us."
One of the more active participants in this officially leaderless protest, Ryan Hoffman, 26, said: "If anything, I think what happened on Saturday made us stronger."
Nine days into the demonstration, Zuccotti Park has taken on the air of a well-run hippy camp.
There is an elaborate field kitchen, a library of donated books, a table where legal advice can be sought, and while not marching on Monday the protesters busied themselves in committee meetings, drum playing or listening to a jazz band.
All decisions are made through committees and a general assembly.
No one is able to say what protesters will do if police decide to clear them out. In a sign that patience is running thin, the private owners of Zuccotti Park put up a new sign over the weekend banning just about everything that happens in the space.
Under the list of activities prohibited are: "camping and/or the erecting of tents or other structures," "lying down on the ground," "use of bicycles, skateboards and roller blades."
The park, says the shiny new sign, is "for passive recreation."
However, the demonstrators, who have no clear goals other than to raise grievances, are adamant that they'll stay.
"I feel so strongly about this," Caitlin Mosiniak, 20, said, tears welling up. "What I want is more people joining us, getting out of the bubble they're in."
Hoffman would only say that the issue of what to do if the police move in had been discussed in secret. "We have a relocation plan. There is a plan for those who wish to be defiant and there is a plan for those who wish to leave."