By Helen Kennedy
In an inspired bit of theater, the Occupy Wall Street protesters on Sunday paraded a shiny effigy of the Biblical Golden Calf modeled after the iconic Bowling Green bull statue.
"It's a false idol, just as much as the Wall Street bull has been a false idol for so many of us for so long," said protester Ed Needham.
The golden calf, labeled Greed, was marched around Zuccotti Square on Day 23 of the Occupy Wall Street protest by a group of clergy who then held an interfaith prayer session.
They sang "We Shall Not Be Moved" and waved signs saying, "Jesus is with the 99%."
"We support the poor," said Lauren Giaccone, 25, who attends Union Theological Seminary uptown.
"The calf represents the idolatry of greed - what this country has come to hold up as a true value. But this country was founded on equality and justice for all," she said.
Father Luis Barrios of St. Mary's Episcopal Church on W 126th Street was among those marching with the papier mache calf
"The country has created a false god: the idea that money and greed are all that matters," he said. "There are many people to blame for this, but Wall Street is the beating heart of the problem."
The sun-splashed square was packed. Larry Long, 76, a retired teacher from Brooklyn, stood holding a sign quoting the Jewish Book of Wisdom: "What good has our boasted wealth brought us?"
His wife, 81-year-old Marj Long, said they decided to show up to counter the impression that it was all "just a bunch of young rabblerousers."
"There are a lot of us who aren't young who support this protest," she said.
Cops detained one protester Sunday night for trying to sleep on the sidewalk at Wall and Broad Sts.
"I'm actually trying to sleep. There's no room in Zuccotti Park, so I want to sleep here," the demonstrator said as he was being placed in a police van.
Two other protesters complied with orders from cops to move.
Protesters also managed to unfurl a large sign from the top floor of the JPMorgan & Co. Building at 23 Wall St. reading, "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out."
The sign was immediately ripped down.
Less than a month after a handful of bongo-playing students began the sit-in, their mushrooming movement finally penetrated the Washington political bubble Sunday.
Republican pols lobbed increasingly vitriolic attacks on the protests, calling them "anti-American" for attacking capitalism.
Democrats, meanwhile, praised the protesters for standing for bedrock American values like fairness.
Surging GOP primary candidate Herman Cain was the most animated, slamming the demonstrators as a bunch of whiners consumed with envy of the affluent.
"Part of it is jealousy," Cain said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT SPREADS TO 150 CITIES
"I don't have a lot of patience with that. My parents, they never played the victim card. My parents never said, 'We hope that the rich people lose something so we can get something.' No, my dad's idea was, 'I want to work hard enough so I can buy a Cadillac - not take somebody else's.' "
Cain said the protesters are "anti-American."
"The free market system and capitalism are two of the things that have allowed this nation and this economy to become the biggest in the world," he said.
Cain said he believes the protests are a union plot to divert attention from President Obama's failures.
Fellow GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich whacked the protesters for their "hostility to classic America."
"I regard the Wall Street protest as a natural outcome of a bad education system, teaching them really dumb ideas," he said.
Cain and Gingrich both described the protests as "class warfare."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rejected that.
"When we said everyone should pay their fair share, the other side said that's class warfare," she said on ABC's "This Week."
"No, it's not. It's the most enduring American value: fairness. And it's about everyone paying their fair share."
She slapped at House GOP leader Eric Cantor - who cheered last year's Tea Party protests - for complaining about the liberal "mobs" in the streets.
"I didn't hear him say anything when the Tea Party was out demonstrating - actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol. He and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them," Pelosi said.
Long Island Republican Rep. Pete King called the protesters a "ragtag mob" of "anarchists."
"They have no idea what they're doing out there. They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone and anti-capitalist," he said Friday.
He warned that the protest movement might "gain legitimacy."
"I'm old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can't allow that to happen," King said Friday on Laura Ingraham's radio show.
One of those 1960s marchers who ended up shaping policy - civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) - said on CNN Sunday that the Occupy Wall Street protesters should be heard.
"They're saying, in effect, that we bailed out Wall Street and now it's time for Wall Street and corporate America to help bail out the American people," Lewis said.
"People are hurting. They're in pain and they're looking for jobs. They want us to humanize the American government but also humanize corporate America."