Occupy Wall Street began on Sept. 17 in Manhattan's financial district and has since spread to other cities across the United States and around the globe. The group was initially ridiculed as a bunch of know-nothing hippies and hipsters without any clear agenda, but has since gotten some sympathetic media coverage and celebrity support and even produced its own television advertisement, though plenty of others continue to dismiss the movement.
Some wealth managers feel they are getting a bad rap because of the protests. “There is a feeling that Wall Street continues to be picked on and that to a large extent the wealth management business is maligned by institutional issues that brought the street to its knees three years ago,” one branch manager, who works near the park where the protestors have been camped out for over a month, told us. His financial advisors, he said, feel they've been doing good work, helping middle-class families achieve their financial goals. “Our FAs understand they have the right to protest, picket, demonstrate. They recognize that America is frustrated with banking, financial services, Wall Street, but I think they feel sad and disappointed that they're misunderstood.” On Oct. 15, we went down to talk to a few of those occupying the park and find out what drew them there.
Trent A. Tilier, 24, Trenton, N.J., welder, artist. Created a flag out of U.S. dollars with a friend for an Occupy Wall Street art show called “No Comment” held at the J.P. Morgan building on Oct. 8. At OWS sporadically since day one. “It's a spreading of ideas more than anything. People are sharing knowledge. The way that our representatives can be bought out by corporate interests is a main theme that a lot of people are protesting. Our voting power may not be as strong as it should be or as strong as it used to be.”
Judy Goldstock, 63, Salida, Colo., retired social worker. At OWS for three days, staying 10. “I had to be here because Wall Street is stealing our homes and our jobs. I don't think we can change it in my lifetime, but I'm here for my kids and my grandkids. Nobody can really do as well as their parents now. There is no more middle class; Wall Street stole that; they also own the president and they own the Congress.”
Lee Kaltman, 38, Ithaca, N.Y., history teacher, former Wall Street trader. At OWS for three minutes. “I'm observing because I want to take it back to the classroom and tell the kids what I actually experienced. I worked on Wall Street as a trader until 9/11. Politically, people need to be heard; the country is not happy because so many people are unemployed. I think this is the best way to create change.”
Jake Lebovic, 20, Cobleskill, N.Y., animal science major, SUNY Cobleskill. At OWS since Sep. 29, heading to school Oct. 15, planning to return on the weekends. “I'm protesting the raise in college tuition because it's way too expensive for me to afford going to school without any job opportunities when I get out of school.”
Jason Ahmadi, 26, Oakland, Calif., political organizer with The War Resisters League. At OWS since day one. “I like to believe that I represent the 99 percent of our country that is misrepresented in our government and left out of our economy. Victory would consist of affordable healthcare and education and an end to current wars, which perpetuate an oil-dependent economy.”