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By ALICIA TEJADA and CECILIA VEGA
The Occupy Wall Street protesters might be struggling to find a unified message but there appears to be little doubt about their growing resolve as the movement settles in beyond the small lower Manhattan Park where it began nearly four weeks ago.
“There is something that’s bubbling, something that’s happening, there is a youthful involvement here,” a New York activist said of protests that have spread to cities across the country such as Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Austin, Texas. “There is an energy that might lead to something big. I’m hopeful.”
The Occupy Cleveland group pushed its cause this weekend in Ohio where protesters marched throughout the city. Participant Lacey Smalldon, who joined a march to Cleveland State University and City Hall, said the group is on a mission.
“Fight corporate greed and not look at it with anger and not settle on anger but to try to move forward and figure out how we can make this system functioning,” Smalldon said.
At Washington’s Freedom Plaza, a planned four-day protest might be extended indefinitely, the Associated Press reported today.
The demonstrators’ permit with the National Park Service expired at 10 p.m. tonight, protest organizer Maria Allwine told the AP, but they intend to stay at least overnight. It’s an “occupation,” she said, adding that protesters are taking good care of the plaza.
Similarly, activists at New York City’s Zuccotti Park, where the protests began Sept. 17, have formed their own volunteer cleaning crews, collecting trash and sorting recyclables. They have also offered to clean the restrooms of the businesses in the area of the park.
They are also reportedly contemplating how to mange the protests as the unseasonably warm weather gives way to the fall and winter.
Nearby, the sun rose today over Washington Square Park in Manhattan to reveal protesters who have taken their grievances to other areas of the city.
The issues include global warming, gas prices and corporate greed, but the common thread is anger targeted at the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the middle class and less fortunate.
Students protesting against tuition hikes, union leaders speaking out against health of the middle class, people angry and disillusioned with the economy and political process in general have gathered daily and are growing in the masses.
Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour of “This Week” today that she understands that Americans are angry and admitted that most of the anger is directed at policies enacted by her own party.
“I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street, the political establishment or the rest that change has to happen,” Pelosi said. “We cannot continue in a way that is not relevant to their lives, people are angry.”
Pelosi said she was well aware of the low approval ratings of Congress and she can see what many people see as the lack of a coherent message from the government, but the amount of frustration that is now boiling into the streets is something significant.
As protests continue to expand throughout the country, not all of them have ended peacefully. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington had to shut down Saturday after some 200 protestors — both anti-war protestors joined by Occupy Wall Street protestors — tried to enter with signs.
Security guards tried to stop them and at least one other guard used pepper spray on demonstrators before ordering the building be shut. Pepper spray has been used by NYPD officers in the past few weeks as well.
Smithsonian representatives said the museum opened on time today and was fully operational.