Occupy Wall Street Movement Gains Momentum, Attention And Controversy

“Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators occupy a park near Wall Street in New York, October 3, 2011. (Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

haskell_featureReporting Peter Haskell

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations gain momentum and attention, the movement has been getting support from some unlikely places and has spawned questions about what protestors are actually trying to achieve.

WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell: Who Are These People?

The demonstration that has virtually taken over lower Manhattan for more than two weeks grew into the thousands Wednesday night as college students walked out of class and labor unions took the streets in solidarity with the anti-Wall Street protest.

According to its website, Occupy Wall Street defines itself as a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”

But what does that actually mean? The main goal of the protestors is against Wall Street corruption and greed, but the group has rallied against a number of other issues, including unemployment, economic inequality, college tuition rates, police brutality, health care and even the execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis.

On Wednesday, various labor unions joined the protest, including the United Federation of Teachers, the Transport Workers Union, the Service Employees International Union as well as the Working Families Party and MoveOn.org.

But a report Thursday morning in the New York Times suggests that some of the unions are joining the Occupy Wall Street movement in order to have a louder voice for their own issues.

“The Transport Workers Union, representing more than 200,000 active and retired workers, today endorsed the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests taking place in New York City and called on TWU members and local unions to join similar efforts taking place across the country,” the TWU said in a statement.

Several lawmakers have also expressed support for the protesters, but others, including some Republican presidential candidates, have condemned them.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said it’s time for the protestors to go, saying they should “not burden this community exclusively with their message,” according to a report by DNAinfo.

Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the protest “class warfare” while speaking in Florida on Tuesday, CBS News reported.

“I think it’s dangerous, this class warfare,” Romney said to about 50 people when asked about the protests.

At a book signing Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla., pizza-company executive Herman Cain called the activists “un-American.”

“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,” Cain said. “That’s not the way America was built.”

The demonstrations have even gained the attention of President Obama.

At a news conference Thursday to discuss his jobs bill, a reporter asked the president what he thought about the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel,” he said.

Meanwhile, a number of celebrities have taken to the streets to show their support, including filmmaker Michael Moore, actors Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and others.

Even billionaire financier George Soros, who made much of his own fortune on Wall Street, publicly announced his support for the protestors.

During a news conference at U.N. on Monday, Soros said he sympathizes with the protesters and understands the frustrations of small business owners dealing with soaring credit card charges.

In general, most Americans seem to divided about the message and the method of the massive protests taking place.

A poll by Rasmussen Reports shows that 33 percent of people asked have a favorable opinion, 27 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 40 percent don’t care one way or the other.

But that same poll found that 79 percent of Americans agree that the middle class was left behind when the big banks were bailed out.

While the movement seems to have no signs of abating in New York City, activists have been showing solidarity in other cities, including Los Angeles, Boise, Seattle and Boston.

On Thursday, the main Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City plans to takes its message to the Goldman Sachs headquarters in Jersey City. There is also a rally planned at the same time in front of the Statehouse in Trenton.



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