NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Occupy Wall Street group in New York is running low on money and on pace to run out by the end of the month, raising questions about the future of the movement that sparked a wave of nationwide protests against economic injustice six months ago.
Donations to the group, which raised about $500,000 within weeks of setting up camp in a park near Wall Street on September 17, have slowed and with plans for an American Spring of protests it has set aside a remaining $90,000 into a fund established to bail arrested protesters out of jail.
A report by Occupy Wall Street’s accounting group for the week ending March 2 showed it had $44,828 in a general fund in addition to the bail fund and warned that “at our current rate of expenditure, we will be out of money in THREE WEEKS.”
The report - posted on the group’s website http:// www.nycga.net - showed $1,556 had been raised that week, while $14,942 had been spent on the group’s kitchen, street medics, New York City bus and subway passes, and printing costs.
Critics say the Occupy movement lacks demands and direction and has lost momentum. Occupy protest crowds in New York and other U.S. cities have tended to number in the hundreds rather than thousands, despite the group’s social media savvy.
“The success of the movement has never depended on money,” Occupy Wall Street spokesman Ed Needham said.
“Occupy Wall Street is about our abundant human resources - the creative talent, dedication and sweat equity of people here and elsewhere that have decided to stand up against a corrupt and unjust society run by a powerful elite few,” he said.
Since Occupy Wall Street began it has received more than $730,000 in donations, according to the accounting group. It has a fiscal sponsor, the Tucson-based Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ), which allows donations to be tax exempt.
Inspired by the pro-democracy Arab Spring and Spain’s “Indignados” movement, Occupy sparked a national debate about economic injustice and has influenced the political conversation leading up to the presidential election in November.
The movement, which prides itself on being leaderless, has also grabbed headlines for clashes with police during protests and has struggled to grow beyond the initial park protests camps that sustained it.
More than a thousand people have been arrested during protests in New York City. Christine Crowther, of the Occupy Wall Street Accounting group, said the bail fund would allow them to keep taking to the streets to protest.
“While we give the dire warning so that people will be conscious and considerate of how we’re spending our money, we are still going to be able to take care of our people in the way that really matters - making sure that their bail and their court fees are paid,” Crowther said.
After two months camping in New York’s Zuccotti Park - and sparking similar so-called occupations of public spaces around the United States - Occupy Wall Street protesters were evicted by authorities and have since been scattered around the city.
Some churches offered a place to stay to some of the several hundred people who had traveled to New York to join the protest, while the group has appealed online for more people to “host an occupier in your home and help sustain the movement.”
As a result it has been spending several thousand dollars a week on transit passes so protesters can travel to an office space the group has been using in Lower Manhattan and a public atrium of a Wall Street skyscraper that it uses for meetings.
Funding had also been used for a “people’s kitchen” that feeds protesters and the homeless in Zuccotti Park most days and for street medics, who treat people injured during protests.
“We also do have a lot planned for the spring and we fully expect the money will start flowing in again,” she said.
A March 17 march is planned to mark the group’s six-month anniversary, and Needham said there would also be “Occupy the Fundraisers” protests against money in politics, a March 24 protest against the fossil fuel industry’s spending on lobbyists and an April 25 protest against U.S. student debt hitting $1 trillion.
Editing by Daniel Trotta