Occupy Wall Street Movement Grows

The Occupy Wall Street protest picked up more momentum Thursday, with supporters saying it has spread to hundreds of cities worldwide.

The Stop the Machine protest, also joined by already on-going Occupy DC protests (then in their sixth day), an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City. Photo: Andrew Bossi/Flickr

And activists in many U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Austin, Texas and Providence, R.I. have been showing solidarity with the movement.

The protest even inspired questions at U.S. President Barack Obama’s news conference at the White House, where the president said the demonstrators are expressing the frustrations of the American public.

Obama acknowledged that, saying the government must ensure the financial sector remains healthy, but not by allowing Wall Street banks to compete “on the basis of hidden fees, deceptive practices or derivative cocktails that nobody understands and that expose the entire economy to enormous risks.”

Labour leaders pledged continued support with manpower and donations of goods and services.

“The great thing about Occupy Wall Street is that they have brought the focus of the entire country on the middle-class majority,” said George Aldro,62, amember of Local 2325 of the United Auto Workers, as he carried the union’s blue flag over his shoulder through lower Manhattan.

“We’re in it together, and we’re in it for the long haul.”

At the same time, while labor unions and some Democratic Party politicians are expressing support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, the core group of occupiers themselves is increasingly facing the question of whether too much mainstream support could dampen their radical message.

“We’re very excited to have our union brothers and sisters march on the heart of greed,” spokesman Patrick Bruner said before a 10,000-strong Wednesday march organized in coordination with labor.

Protestors admit they are generally appreciative of the increasing union support for the movement — but more wary of Democrats and establishment figures getting involved.

“We don’t necessarily think that they way they’re structured is the best,” Bruner said, referring to the unions’ top-down organizational style. “But we believe the 99% needs a voice, and they’re one of the few remaining.”

Some movement members express scepticism of whether people like Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke can claim to understand the protesters.

Ben Bernanke discussed the movement on Tuesday and said the protesters “blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here inWashington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement began on September 17. Then the protest consisted of a few hundred people speaking out about corporate greed and inequality.

From the beginning, organizers have said they hope protesters will occupyManhattan’s Financial District for two months.

The support from labor unions, which began signing on in late September, has brought hundreds more to the scene. Representatives from the groups have garnered attention by sending press releases about the protest.

On Day 15, this past Saturday, the tone changed sharply. The protesters extended the rally to BrooklynBridge, where hundreds were arrested and later released with tickets for blocking the roadway.

The protest has drawn some criticism for its lack of concrete goals. But the fact that Occupy Wall Streetis still going strong 19 days later means it’s done what it set out to do: Draw focus to the concerns — and anger — many Americans have about the country’s growing economic gap, plant the seed of an organized voice, and let the protest evolve naturally.

Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed their support for the protesters. Meanwhile, some Republican presidential candidates have critisized them.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the protest “class warfare” at an appearance at a Florida retirement community.

GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain called the activists “un-American” Wednesday at a book signing inSt. Petersburg,Fla.

“They’re basically saying that somehow the government is supposed to take from those that have succeeded and give to those who want to protest,” the former pizza-company executive said.

“That’s not the way America was built.” [via Huff Post, CBC and CNN]




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