October 22, 2011
NEW YORK — Folk music legend Pete Seeger and `60s folk singer Arlo Guthrie joined Occupy Wall Street demonstrators Friday in their campaign against corporate greed while residents near the protest park encampment pushed to regain some peace and quiet in their neighborhood.
Seeger joined in the Occupy Wall Street protest Friday night, replacing his banjo with two canes as he marched with throngs of people in New York City’s tony Upper West Side past banks and shiny department stores.
The 92-year-old Seeger, accompanied by musician-grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger, composer David Amram, and bluesman Guy Davis, shouted out the verses of protest anthems as the crowd of about 1,000 people sang and chanted.
They marched peacefully over more than 30 blocks from Symphony Space, where the Seegers and other musicians performed, to Columbus Circle. Police watched from the sidelines.
Occupy Wall Street began a month ago in lower Manhattan among a few young people, and has grown to tens of thousands around the country and the world. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll says more than one-third of the country supports the Wall Street protesters, and even more – 58 percent – say they are furious about America’s politics.
But the encampment at Zuccotti Park has become more than a tolerable nuisance, some neighborhood residents say. At a meeting Thursday, they complained of protesters urinating in the streets and beating drums in the middle of the night. Some called for the protesters to vacate the park.
The area’s community board voted unanimously for a resolution that recognized the protesters’ First Amendment rights while calling for a crackdown on noise and public urination and defecation.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and state Sen. Daniel Squadron said in a statement that the resolution was “an attempt to establish a sensible framework that respects the protesters’ fundamental rights while addressing the very real quality of life concerns for residents and businesses around Zuccotti Park.”
Asked about Occupy Wall Street on WOR Radio on Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the protesters’ leaderless structure has made it difficult to negotiate with them.
Occupy Wall Street spokesman Han Shan, who has served as a liaison between protesters and local elected officials, agreed the protesters needed to be better neighbors. Shan, who attended the meeting, promised to limit the noise.
At Columbus Circle, Seeger and friends walked to the chant of “We are the 99 percent” and “We are unstoppable; another world is possible.” Seeger stopped to bang a metal statue of an elephant with his cane – to cheers from the crowd.
At the center of the plaza, Seeger and Amram were joined by Guthrie in a round of “We Shall Overcome,” a protest anthem made popular by Seeger.
After more singing, Seeger asked for a mic check to tell the crowd: “The words are simple: I could be happy spending my days on the river that flows both way-ay-ays.”
During the march, the younger Seeger, in troubadour fashion like his grandfather, walked among the protesters playing songs. Amra took up a flute and others enlivened the night protest with the sounds of the accordion, banjos, and guitars.
At the front of the throng, marchers held American flags and a large blue flag that said: “Revolution Generation … Debt is Slavery.” Along the way, the crowd sang protest songs made popular or written by Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and others of the protest era.