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Diverse Group Uses Speaker's Corner to Air Grievances

The people speaking to CNBC.com's Speaker's Corner are as diverse as the members of the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Occupy Wall Street protest
Occupy Wall Street protest

On Sept. 17, 2011, a loosely organized group calling itself Occupy Wall Street gathered in lower Manhattan, not far from the New York Stock Exchange, to protest corporate greed, social inequality and other divisions between the rich and the poor.

The movement, initially ignored, has now grown from a few dozens to hundreds, and has spread from New York to many other cities including Los Angeles, Tampa, Fla., and Portland, Ore.

On the group’s website, Occupywallstreet, the group describes itself as a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders, and political persuasions."

The same can be said for those who spoke to CNBC.com. They differ in age, race, and agenda. Many said they came down to see what was going on. Some complained of their economic hardships, such as the unnamed woman from Queens, N.Y., who came to protest the problems she is having holding on to her home because she can't pay her mortgage.

Others took advantage of the publicity, such as a man, who did not give his name, who came to the podium with an accordion to plug a show he wrote for Broadway called "The Big Bank."

A man named Seth was more typical of the speakers, saying he came out of curiousity because "I wasn't sure what all this was about. Now that I'm here I have to say I'm proud of a lot that is being done." He noted, however, that there were too many messages and the protestors need to find some common ground.

"Perhaps it’s time we sat down as a group and decided what we want instead of everybody here protesting the economy or the government or whatever," Seth said.

There was the student blaming budget cuts for the loss of teachers at his school and the retired professor of social policy who said at the core of the nation's problems is "inequality, which is subverting democracy."

Another curious visitor, Cyrus, said he sees "mixed agendas," which isn't a good thing because of the combination of "angry students who can't get a job, Marxists, anarchists" he has seen protesting.

Speaking of mixed messages, a young, shirtless man who did not give his name said he was at the protest to "express global equality." He also said "the money system doesn't work" and wondered why he had to work for money "when you can go around the corner and rob a suit for it."

Another anonymous protestor said he was there because he blamed Wall Street for the country's ills. "Wall Street has taken our jobs, taken our benefits" and "shipped our jobs to China," he said. "We need a social safety net."

In the middle of the circus-like atmosphere were both the strange and the straight.

Brandon did a rap, "I am Bourgeoisie," that had the crowd cheering. Richard said he is "one of the 99 percenters" who will "never be part of the 1 percent" richest in the U.S. He said he was at the protests "for the unemployed, the oppressed and I'm also here for Troy Davis, the man executed in Georgia."

Pat from Rhode Island said she feels sorry for young people today and wants them to have the same life she had growing up, when she could go to college "and not owe anyone a dime."

Even business was represented. David, his dark suit and tie making him stand out in a decidedly anti-business crowd, said he was at the protest because "I love America and I want us to restore democracy."

"I’m here to advocate…the idea of economic justice," he said. "What has made America great is this concept of fairness and fair play and a level playing field to do our business on. It is in our interest as business people to have a more equitable and fairer system that will propel our economy forward."

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