Video: Thousands of Students (and Anne Hathaway) Protest in Union Square

Nick DeSantis Students outside of N.Y.U. Stern School of Business.

Thousands of students converged on Union Square this afternoon as part of the Occupy Wall Street “Day of Action,” which was planned to celebrate the movement’s two-month anniversary today. Some of the students marched to Union Square from the steps of New York University’s Stern School of Business, where they earlier castrated a purple-and-gold bull piñata named Wally – a symbol, the protesters said, of their school’s complicity in a financial downturn that has left so many students unemployed.

After the march lurched up University Place to the north side of Union Square, students from several local universities – Cooper Union, N.Y.U., and C.U.N.Y. among them – addressed the crowd with stories of insurmountable debt and lingering joblessness. Taylor Hand, a 21-year-old Cooper Union student, criticized her school’s recent announcement that it may begin charging tuition.

Dominique Z. Scott Marching into Union Square Park

“We are horrified that tuition is being considered, even as a last resort,” she said, noting that her fellow students are upset not just for fiscal reasons. “A full-tuition scholarship tells every student, ‘you are more valuable than your family’s material assets.’”

Dacia Mitchell, a 34-year-old doctoral student at N.Y.U., brought her two-year-old daughter Althea along to show that she did not have enough money to pay for daycare. She accused her school of union busting and not looking out for the interests of its students.

“New York University is not for students,” she said to the crowd. “New York University is not for education. New York University is for profit.”

Though most of the protesters hailed from local schools, some traveled from nearby cities like Philadelphia to participate in the rally. Jesse Greenberg, 30, said he had had only one year of consistent employment since graduating from the University of the Arts in 2005.

“For my student loans, they wanted $436 dollars a month,” he said. “My rent is $435 dollars a month. So I defaulted on my loans.” Mr. Greenberg and his friends planned to travel back to Philadelphia tonight, since they could not count on being able to sleep in Zuccotti Park.

Susan Keyloun Protesters leaving the park and heading west on 16th Street.

The students enjoyed some celebrity support at this afternoon’s rally, as reported by Twitter user @Elana_Brooklyn, who spotted actress Anne Hathaway holding a sign that read, “Blackboards Not Bullets.”

Though Occupy Wall Street’s morning demonstrations near the New York Stock Exchange were marked by tense battles with police and scores of arrests, this afternoon’s Union Square rally was tame by comparison. The only scuffle occurred near the end of the protest, when two students began shoving each other and were quickly met with chants of, “this is a peaceful protest.”

To continue the campaign against student debt and joblessness, Occupy Wall Street’s New York City General Assembly is planning an “Occupy Student Debt” campaign, which will launch on Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Zuccotti Park.