Most Americans spent Thanksgiving snug inside homes with families and football. Others used the holiday to give thanks alongside strangers at outdoor 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 San Francisco, 400 occupiers at a plaza in the financial district were 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.”
While the celebration remained peaceful in San Francisco, an amplified version of a family Thanksgiving squabble erupted in New York when police ordered a halt to drumming by protesters at an otherwise traditional holiday meal.
About 500 protesters were digging into donated turkey and trimmings at lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, when police told a drummer to drop playing.
About 200 protesters surrounded a group of about 30 officers and began shouting in the park where the Occupy movement was launched on Sept. 17.
“Why don't you stop being cops for Thanksgiving?” yelled one protester.
“Why don't you arrest the drummers in the Thanksgiving parade?” hollered another.
A van rolled up with more officers, but they stayed back as protesters eventually decided to call off the drumming and return to their food. Tensions have run high at the park since campers were evicted on Nov. 15.
Protester Chris Coon wandered into Zuccotti in a Santa Claus suit with a list of “naughty” people that included former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Bank of America foreclosed on the North Pole, then I flew here in my sleigh and the NYPD towed my sleigh,” Coon said. “So now I'm here in Zuccotti Park protesting the 1 percent.”
Demonstrators nationwide say they are protesting corporate greed and the concentration of wealth in the upper 1 percent of the American population.
The movement was triggered by the high rate of unemployment and foreclosures, as well as the growing perception that big banks and corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, yet are taking in huge bonuses while most Americans have seen their incomes drop.
Restaurants and individual donors prepared more than 3,000 meals for the gathering at Zuccotti.
Haywood Carey, 28, of Chapel Hill, N.C., helped serve the meals and said the Thanksgiving celebration was a sign of Americans' shared values.
“The things that divide are much less than the things that bind us together,” he said.
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.”
Pat Mannix, 72, a longtime community activist, dropped off a vegetarian turkey and pies at the camp.
“I give thanks for these young people,” she said. “The young people down here are sleeping out in spite of the cold, the wind, the soaking rains, and they are here trying to save democracy.”
In Los Angeles, where 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.”
In Las Vegas, 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.
Trisha Carr, 35, spent her holiday at the Occupy encampment at City Hall in Philadelphia. She has been out of work for more than two years and lost her car and home. She's been living in an Occupy tent for two weeks.
“Some days are harder than others,” she said.
The sunny, crisp weather Thursday put her in a good mood, and she watched the annual Thanksgiving parade before coming back to the encampment for a plate full of turkey and fixings.
Carr said her job search has been fruitless, and the government needs to do more to help people like her.
“I had the benefits, I had money in my pocket, I had health care — I had it all,” Carr said. “There should be no reason why people aren't working.”
AP writers Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; Chris Hawley in New York; Ben Dobbin in Rochester, N.Y; Alicia Chang in Los Angeles; and Cristina Silva in Las Vegas contributed to this report.