CNBC gave participants of the Occupy Wall Street protests a podium to express their views, from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.
The first speaker works with homeless people and says there's a change in consciousness around the world, and that's one of the reasons why he's in Zuccotti Park. The great-great grand niece of Kathryn Lee Bates, who wrote "America the Beautiful," says we need to turn away from the America where greed works. America gets it, she says, and we need to return to the culture of liberty and freedom. Another speaker asks where are the unions? Where are the senators? Where are the jobs? A man named Sean from Houston expreses his outrage at the fact that banks are profiting while rest of us are stagnating. An older woman says she's proud of the protesters the senior citizens have been forgotten.
Jason says Wall Street helped create this financial crisis, and we represent the 99 percent of people who were left out of the economy. He hopes to see the power return to the people. Lauren says she's concerned about industrial food production and wants proper labeling on genetically-modified food. Unfortunately, she thinks that won't happen because the food companies are paying off the politicians. And Eric wants to thank the people of Occupy Wall Street because, he says, they're protecting his pension.
There's a new front for the OWS movement: Occupy Government is planning to run hundreds of candidates, says David. The smart people who set up this country set it up so we can fire the corrupt people and replace them with people who represent the 99 percent. They're seeking a pledge that the candidates will only represent the interests of people and not corporations. Vote for a candidate you respect. And Liz Abzug, former Congresswoman Bella Abzug's daughter, says she wants to take the buck out of the ballot. Her mother, she says, represented the people and did it without taking corporate money.
Lynn, who came to town for the Jewish holiday, says she was part of the 70s women's movement and that things didn't change until they took to the streets. She's also concerned that whenever there's an economic crisis, antisemitism rears its ugly head. Cynthia, who's originally from San Francisco, wants health insurance for everyone. David says he wants corporate money taken out of the political process, so we can get back to government by the people, for the people, and that the OWS movement is giving a voice to everyone. While Colby from Israel says he wants to help create a better world and build a social movement that challenges existing institutions. Mike, who's producing a Wall Street crime drama, has five points that would help the economy grow: campaign finance reform, reinstate Glass-Steagall, charge a tariff on any company manufacturing abroad and selling here, tax reform, which he says should make the people pay their fair share, and finally, he wants term limits on judges and Supreme Court justices.
An unemployed mental health worker from California says he hopes Occupy Wall Street is the beginning of a true populist, grass-roots movement in America, one that is completely unlike the Tea Party movement. There are a lot of people here who have a lot of opinions, but most agree on the problems caused by the wealth accumulation of the top 1 percent while the rest of the country suffers.
Anthony, a union tradesman, says he wants everyone in this country to acknowledge the role consumerism plays in our current situation. As consumers, we can vote with our dollars. He also wants campaign finance reform, which he says would attract honest people to be candidates for political office in this country. "We should pluck at the root, and not the fruit." Wall Street's just a symptom, he adds.
Frank from San Francisco describes himself as an American capitalist. SF is known for protests and this one intrigued him. It's a bunch of people who, if they used half their energy to get a job, they'd find one, he says. But they seem content to "sit on their ass" and drum on a drum or wander around aimlessly. With a little direction I think they'd do a much better job of finding their own way in the economy. "It can be done," he adds.
Vick from outside Las Vegas says it's about time to do something about a capitalist system that has managed to eat itself. The mechanism has overtaken our system of government. "We've become a fascist state." We know what's going on, but entrust our well-being to people who do nothing but put money in their pockets. He is currently fighting a bank that is trying to repossess his home.
Karen from Washington State is excited about this movement. "We're middle class and we're mad as hell," she says. Adam from New Rochelle says he now knows he needs to be more vocal and generate more communication on the issues. He's also against lobbying, which he thinks breeds corruption. And Sam says there are a lot of reasons people are here, and he's there to support the discussion. He's a staunch capitalist, but he believes there are ways to regulate and prevent people from manipulating the markets.
Randy says he's a bricklayer who's been out of work for eight months and he's asking for change. We need to fight for what's right for the people. A musician from Florida says it's important to know why corporations can commit unspeakable fraud against the American people and not have to pay a price. It's not about left or right. It's about everyone looking for their portion in an economy that's stacked against them. Karen is the poet laureate of Kansas, but grew up in New York. She says her father was a self-made man when people could be self made. When she looks at what her children face today, she sees how hard it's become. The OWS movement, she says, has even taken root in conservative Kansas.
A woman from Savannah, Georgia, speaks in honor of her mother, Miss Lily Mae Jones, who used to come home with tear gas in her eyes after attending marches during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. As a little girl, she says, she didn't know her mother's tears were from the gas that was being used to disperse protesters. She says the late activists are smiling down on them now and that she knows this protest is going to change things.
Outlaw Bobby Steele, who says he spent 35 years on Wall Street, says he was a vp of sales at a company that was taken over by ING, and he lost his job. Wall Street definitely needs reform, he adds. A young man says urban communities in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Newark have been facing this sort of disenfranchisement for years. Alex says he's a teacher in the public school system and the wealth gap is what he's fighting. Another man says he's tired of people taking and taking, and wonders why they can't give anything back. Lisette is struggling to make ends meet and can't afford to pay her student loans.
Meg from Fort Bragg, in California, is a member of Fort Bragg City Council, and says people should remove their money from large banks and put it in smaller local banks and credit unions. Her friend Bob says it would help large banks to see that sitting on piles of money and not lending it does not help the country. By taking out your money, they would have to change their behavior.
Elaine says her animal shelter put all its money into a Charles Schwab money market account. The funds, she says, were misappropriated, and the shelter lost its rescue money because Schwab settled with the government for 10 cents on the dollar. As a result, she adds, she cannot fund her nationwide "Tails of Joy." Charles Schwab, she adds, is killing puppies and kittens, and needs to make a donation.
A man says he's suffered because of the ethical shenanigans as a result of Wall Street. He wasn't able to help his last girlfriend with dental or medical care because she couldn't afford to pay. The President, who promised healthcare, has caved in to the insurance industry, and people like me are going to wind up making a difference by putting our feet down. This is not a democracy, he adds, because whoever gets elected to office is bought and paid for by the corporate elite. He urges whoever's watching to get out and join the democratic movement. Alex says we should provide global healthcare for everyone. David, from Central Pennsylvania, says he has a good paying job and is here to support the movement. The economic inequality in this country must be addressed, he adds.
Janelle says the most important thing this movement can do is to kick the lobbyists out of Washington. A man says there are hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating around the country and around the world. If these people vote, he says, they can throw the bums out. If they don't, they're just making noise nobody hears.