Hundreds of people marched Saturday near Wall Street in New York, but the city thwarted their bid to descend into the heart of global finance itself to protest greed, corruption and budget cuts.
Protesters had planned to stake out Wall Street until their anger over a financial system they say favors the rich and powerful was heard, but police blocked all the streets near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan long before they arrived.
"The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99 Percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent," said a statement on the website Occupy Wall Street. The movement was launched by the online magazine Adbusters in July.
Organizers hoped to turn all of Lower Manhattan into an "American Tahrir Square," in reference to the public town square in Cairo that became the focal point of protests that ousted Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in February.
By noon, about 700 people, many carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, had gathered near Wall Street to search for a place to camp amid a heavy police presence. That was far less than the 20,000 Adbusters had hoped to see "flood" the neighborhood for a months-long occupation.
"This is a protest against corporate greed and we come to Wall Street because Wall Street is the Ground Zero for corporate greed," said Julia River Hitt, a 22-year-old philosophy student, explaining that most of the organizing took place online.
"We are here just to say we are fed up, we are not gonna take it anymore."
Banners brandished in Trinity Place, the site finally chosen by the protesters some 1,000 feet (300 meters) from Wall Street, read "No more corruption," "Stop the cuts" and "Wall St Greed, New Yorkers say enough."
The protest came as the United States struggles to overcome an economic crisis marked by a huge budget deficit that has triggered cuts in the public service sector while unemployment hovers stubbornly above nine percent.
"There's a war in Libya, there's a war in Afghanistan, there's a war in Iraq and we have cuts in education, social programs," said a masked protester who declined to be identified.
"We know where the money is going! Revolution in America!"