John Minchillo / AP
Occupy Wall Street protestors dig into their thanksgiving dinner in Zuccotti Park, Thursday in New York.
By NBC New York and Associated Press
Most Americans spent Thanksgiving inside their homes with families, food and football. Others used the day to give thanks alongside strangers at Occupy encampments, serving turkey or donating their time in solidarity with the anti-Wall Street movement that has gripped a nation consumed by economic despair.
In New York City, about 300 demonstrators lined up in Zuccotti Park at a rack loaded with meals, served in plastic trays wrapped with brown paper, NBC New York reported.
Organizers said they had between 2,000 and 3,000 Thanksgiving meals available to distribute at Zuccotti Park, where the protest movement began on Sept. 17 before spreading nationwide. Protesters were evicted from the park on Nov. 15.
"So many people have given up so much to come and be a part of the movement because there is really that much dire need for community," said Megan Hayes, a chef and organizer with the Occupy Wall Street Kitchen in New York. "We decided to take this holiday opportunity to provide just that — community."
In upstate New York, Danny Cashman, 25, an Afghanistan war veteran who works for a company that resells cellphones, said he sleeps at least three nights a week at an encampment in Rochester to show his solidarity with the movement.
"For today, this is my family," Cashman said as he dug into a chicken dinner at the 35-tent encampment in tiny Washington Square Park. "We have a great brotherhood, great friends, a great community."
More than 480 tents have been erected on the lawns of City Hall, activist Teri Adaju, 46, said she typically serves dinner to homeless people on Thanksgiving and knows that many at the Los Angeles encampment were just that.
Still, she added, "Everybody's in good cheer."
At least 400 occupiers at a plaza in the financial district were also served traditional Thanksgiving fixings sent by the renowned Glide Memorial Church to volunteers and supporters of the movement fighting social and economic inequality.
"We are thankful that we are, first and foremost, in a country where we can protest," said the Rev. Cecil Williams, the founder of Glide and a fixture in the city's activist community. "And we are thankful that we believe that there are things that could be worked out and that we have a sense of hope. But we know that hope only comes when you make a stand."
Occupy protesters had a potluck meal at their campsite near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Organizer Sebring Frehner said he was happy to skip his traditional meal at home.
"Instead of hunkering down with five or six close individuals in your home, people you probably see all of the time anyway, you are celebrating Thanksgiving with many different families — kind of like the original Thanksgiving," Frehner said.