* Donations have slowed
* Group plans ‘American Spring’ protests
By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - New York’s Occupy Wall Street group is warning it could run out of money by the end of the month, raising questions about the future of the movement that sparked nationwide protests against economic injustice last year.
Donations to the group have slowed six months after it set up camp in a park near Wall Street, igniting the Occupy movement across the United States.
A report by Occupy Wall Street’s accounting group for the week ended March 2 showed it had $44,828 in a general fund in addition to $90,000 set aside to bail protesters out of jail during planned “American Spring” protests.
The report said, “At our current rate of expenditure, we will be out of money in THREE WEEKS.”
The report - posted on the group’s websitewww.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 bus and subway passes, and printing costs.
The latest donation total constrasted sharply with the estimated $500,000 the group raised within weeks of setting up camp at Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17.
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, which allows donations to be tax exempt.
Critics say the Occupy movement lacks direction and specific demands and has lost momentum. Occupy protest crowds in New York and other U.S. cities have tended to number only in the hundreds, despite the group’s social media savvy.
But Occupy Wall Street spokesman Ed Needham said, “The success of the movement has never depended on money.”
“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.
Inspired by the pro-democracy Arab Spring movement and Spain’s “Indignados” movement, Occupy sparked a national debate about economic inequality and has influenced the political debate in this year’s U.S. presidential election campaign.
The Occupy movement, which prides itself on being leaderless, has struggled to grow beyond the initial protest camps that sustained it.
Christine Crowther of the Occupy Wall Street accounting group said the group had “a lot planned for the spring and we fully expect the money will start flowing in again,”
A march is planned for March 17 to mark the group’s six-month anniversary. 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.
Crowther said the $90,000 bail fund would allow Occupy members to keep taking to the streets to protest. More than 1,000 people were arrested in previous Occupy protests in New York.
“While we give the dire warning (on finances) 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.
Occupy Wall Street protesters have been scattered across New York since their camp was evicted from Zuccotti Park in November.
A number of churches offered places to stay for some of the several hundred people who had traveled to New York to join the protest. Occupy Wall Street has also appealed online for more people to “host an occupier in your home and help sustain the movement.”
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 it uses for meetings.