Updated 10/10/2011 10:40 AM
Clergy Members March Alongside "Occupy Wall Street" Protesters
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The "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators who have been camping in Lower Manhattan for more than three weeks to protest the country's economic inequality marched to Washington Square Park on Sunday, and members of the clergy joined them in solidarity.
Chanting as they marched around the perimeter of Zuccotti Park, an interfaith coalition of Muslims, Jews and Christians carried a golden reproduction of the "Wall Street" bull, symbolizing greed and the biblical "golden calf" that was idolized as a false god.
"This is a symbol of our spiritual poverty in this country, of how far we've come from the basic principles of what we are supposed to be doing in this country," said the Reverend Michael Ellick of Judson Memorial Church.
"This golden calf is a symbol of the economic slavery Americans have allowed themselves to be trapped by," said activist Warren Goldstein.
The group then went to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village to hold a so-called "general assembly," much as protesters did on Saturday.
Issues like Wall Street greed, financial reform, political corruption and the gap between rich and poor have motivated thousands across the city, and now the nation, to protest.
"Well, I'm down here because Wall Street's been bailed out, and the American people have been sold out," said one protester. "I'm a former United States Marine.... I love the country, I love the people, but the government is criminal."
"I am currently a law student, I'm at law school, and it is taking a lot to adjust to make that possible in terms of education, because of the debt," said another protester. "The interesting thing about our school is that we have a social mission. And a lot of us would like to serve that social mission upon entering law school, but we can't because we need to find a job that's going to satisfy our debt, so we won't be in it for 25 years."
"Message is, you know, I was a business owner and lost my business because of the economy. My dad's house is in foreclosure because of the economy and being taken away from him right now, and there's just too much money in too little pockets," said a third.
Many secular demonstrators welcomed a union with the religious community?
"Ninety-nine percent of population is getting screwed by the current system that we're in. I'm surprised it took them this long to come out," said one protester.
"Any conscientious religious leader that is supposed to be taking care of their flock would recognize they should be actively engaged in opposing the policy's hurting their congregants," said another.
The various religious groups also offered some practical help to the protesters, by pledging to open the doors of their houses of worship to allow protesters to bathe.
For more than three weeks, protesters have been camping out at Zuccotti Park, and they have dealt with food preparation, cleanliness and even creating independent media.
Some Lower Manhattan residents said they were concerned about noise pollution and sanitary conditions at Zuccotti Park, but others said the movement will ensure a more equal society.
"I'm not necessarily against them," said one Lower Manhattan resident. "Maybe this time it's needed."
"A lot of the Wall Street firms no longer work on Wall Street, and I think a lot of these people don't realize that," said another. "This is actually more of a neighborhood now."
The Occupy Wall Street has received support from some influential politicians, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
In her first public comments on the demonstrations, Pelosi said she agrees with the movement.
However, some Republicans who previously supported the Tea Party demonstrations said the latest gatherings are just unorganized.
"I went by one of the protests in Washington, D.C. on Friday and I saw a lot of signs from unions that were there, so I don't know how spontaneous these protests were," said Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. "But it seems to me their anger should be directed at the White House, because Barack Obama's policies have put us in one of the worst tailspins economically.... Maybe that's why the protests that I saw was within shouting distance of the White House."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor criticized the protesters' message as divisive, saying that condoning the demonstrations amounted to pitting "Americans against Americans."