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Author
Shelby Holliday
Date
October 7, 2011

Inside Occupy Wall Street

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In mid-September, a few dozen demonstrators gathered in New York City to protest
America’s financial system. Three weeks later, their message has spread to
nearly 150 cities across the country.

Click here for a slideshow from the protests.

Images and videos of what’s being called the “Occupy
Wall Street” movement have been all over the news. So, when I was assigned to
cover the rallies in NYC’s Financial District on Wednesday, I was excited to see
for myself what these protests were all about. Based on what I had read, I was
looking for aggressive crowds, angry signs and a great deal of confrontation.
But based on what I saw, let’s just say that my expectations were way off.

When we arrived in Zuccotti Park, the “campground” for many of the
protesters, I was actually worried that we had gone to the wrong location. Sure, we were surrounded by tents and sign-making sessions, but nobody seemed to be
talking about Wall Street at all. Instead,
protesters were dancing to an impromptu drum set at the west end of the park.
Lower Manhattan felt more like a party than it did a protest.

Other
things we saw: a huge meditation circle, a makeshift “cafeteria” stocked with
food and water, and a handful of protesters strumming guitars, playing cards,
and making bracelets. Scroll to the bottom of the post for photos from the park.

It wasn’t hard to see why the Occupy Wall Street
movement has been criticized for not having a streamlined message or goal. When
I asked a 17-year-old protester about this, she said, “how can you have a
streamlined message when there is sooo much that’s wrong with the world?!”

Her friend “Bombadillo” agreed, explaining that Wall Street is just a
symbol. His beef is actually with the government, but he said that by attacking
Wall Street, the group has been able to harness more attention for their
cause. So what exactly is that cause? “Unity consciousness,” he told
me.

The young people we spoke with said they have no idea how long the
protest will last, but their goal is to help it continue growing nationwide.
This weekend, they’re heading to Michigan to set up “Occupy Detroit.” Then
they’ll play the rest by ear.

According to an Occupation Status Board at
Zuccotti Park, the movement has already spread to at least 147 cities in the
U.S. and 28 overseas
, and it has received $35,000 in donations. The website www.occupytogether.org
lists events planned across the country, including cities like Boston, Chicago,
Denver and Seattle.

The
message might be unclear, but according to the protesters, the movement is only
getting started.

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