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Occupy Wall Street: An Interview With the Protesters

We've presented our conclusions from our trip to the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York's Zuccotti Park last week, as well as some of the protest signs we liked.

Below is video footage of our interviews with several of the protesters. Watch below to hear about the signs they're holding up, what their endgame is, the one thing they'd change if they could, and how they fill in the blank to the following sentence: "Occupy Wall Street is anti-_______."

For more coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, see:

Special thanks to Mac Greer and Rick Engdahl for their work on this video.

Brian Richards is managing editor of The Motley Fool. Follow him on Twitter @brianlrichards.

Read/Post Comments (29) | Recommend This Article (21)

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  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 11:05 AM, cattywampus wrote:

    Good to see that after their increased involvement in politics lately the youth of our country have remained engaged and haven't given up on America the land of opportunity.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 1:21 PM, bhessel wrote:

    Excellent work, Brian et al. Please be sure to forward a link to Erin Burnett, whose recent CNN featurette covered—or more accurately muddied—the same ground:

    Ms. Burnett needs no lessons from anyone at TMF on snarkiness, but she would do well to attend your standards of journalistic integrity.

    Brad Hessel

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 7:02 PM, WyattJunker wrote:

    'Shared wealth?'

    Not sure if that means dividends, but I doubt it. I think it means the kid wants a bigger IRS to extract more money from others and run it thru a paper shredder.

    The one percenter cliche has been around for a long time, before most of these kids were born. Fact is, their fixed pie economic theory doesn't fly. Pies grow. I wouldn't mind being a 99 percenter if I made more money in the process. But to these kids, if a 1 percenter made a disproportionate amount more than them(and however they subjectively define it) they could care less if their own net wealth increases.

    They are like the French. Egalitarianism over freedom.

    Their new slogan should read WE ARE THE FLEA PARTY! FREEDOM FROM LIBERTY!

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 9:54 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    How enlightened....a protest designed to incite a seemingly unknown outcome...........even by those DEMANDING that unknown outcome.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 10:03 PM, maiday2000 wrote:

    It seems that MF looked for people with more coherent messages than other media, but if this is the best they could find, we are in worse shape than I thought.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 9:27 AM, sails2 wrote:

    I am soon to be 69 years old. I see an ever increasing share of our countries wealth going to the top 1 %. My children do not have the chance for economic mobility that I had (I grew up very blue collar and ended up a manager in a chemical company). This despite the fact that both of my daughters have graduate degrees. We are between Italy and the UK regarding social mobility - at the bottom. Do the wealthy really want the competition for their kids that a truly egalitarian society would bring? I doubt it. The 99 % have a right to ask for their share.

    I am sure that goals are still a little bit hazy. However, the tea party types have hazy goals also. We now find them against floridation of water. I thought that went out with the John Birch Society in the 50's.

    These people are using their 1st amendment right of free speech. It will not always be rational, at least to some of us. They are not a mob.

    I heard last night that 54% of the country sympathizes with them. And that 27% sympathizes with the tea party. That should tell you something. (Time Poll).

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 12:58 PM, jwhaley1210 wrote:

    Sails, it is interesting that 54% of the country sympathizes with a movement that has no established point. This is more scary to me than the actual protest. Protesting is easy and fun but actually understanding what you are protesting and having the means and intelligence to follow through is another thing. I am by no means in the "1%". I thank that 1% for investing their hard earned money and providing me with a job and an income. I can't even imagine what will happen if we wipe out the "1%".

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 1:20 PM, Milligram46 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 1:25 PM, anotherjames wrote:

    Mark Steyn said it best. They are Anarchists for Big Government.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 1:28 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    I'm the 99%. My mother never made more than 50,000 ever since she came here from Vietnam in the late '70s. 3 months ago I graduated a state college in four years, all paid for from my mother's own hands. I found a job, making 10% of what my boss makes. In 10 years, if i work my hardest, I'll make what he makes.

    I don't hate Jamie Dimon, or George Soros, or Carl Icahn, or Lloyd Blankfein. I actually look up to them. During college, i made many mistakes, but after prioritizing, i used these figures as a goal. They grew up in low to middle class just like myself, but they wanted more. I could've gone out to party more, or majored in psychology, but decided business was what i was meant for. I hate how I am depicted in this 99%, when I aim to be the 1%, and if i don't make it, it is no one's fault but my own.

    I do hate what this country has become. Instead of following celebs, i followed derivatives, learned what options were, and how to analyze through technical analysis. I don't judge those who follow Kim kardashian, i don't hate on you for doing what you love. Let me follow what I love, let me make my capital gains, because watch out Jamie Dimon, I am gunning for your spot.

    p.s. i find it funny how thousands lined up for Iphones this morning and mourned Steve Jobs when his company was one of the most influential in outsourcing jobs, while those same people probably are occupying wall street. Give it to us young kids to value iphones or health insurance

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 1:33 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    Milligram, your 4 points are directed at Wall Street, but should be directed at Congress. Wall street consists of Mcdonalds, Wal-Mart, Caterpillar, Inc, and yes along with Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, they make rules/policies for their own companies (i THINK it is because it is their own)

    Do I go to my local McDonalds to complain about my mayor's poor handling of education?

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 2:22 PM, Inept wrote:

    I think that the most succinct way to identify what the Occupy Wall St. protests are all about would be to say that they demand separation of corporation and state.

    It's just that simple.

    I don't think that this movement would begrudge wealthy people their legitimately-gotten gains. What it's railing against is a political system that is purchased by corporate interests and in in turn grants them leave to do anything with impunity. More than that, it actually pays corporate interests to play ruinous games with our health, economy, personal finances, environment, etc. by means of subsidies, bailouts, tax loopholes, etc.

    These people want corporate power reigned in and excised from the political process. They want true capitalism with strong regulation of excesses, not a system that socializes losses and privatizes gains.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 2:47 PM, TimothyVR wrote:

    The irony of the Motley Fool powers-that-be desperately trying to sound politically correct by supporting these protests seems to have passed by the posters here.

    Does it occur to you that the protesters oppose the very thing that this site is based on: investments and profits? Wall Street is the enemy to the protesters. Sorry - but I cannot agree.

    I must I admit that I found it nauseating to read this here. At least have the courage of your convictions. Would you all REALLY be that pleased if Wall Street was crushed?

    I think I will stop using this site for a while. I'm sure I won't be missed among the thousands who post here.

    But I have no intention of praising those who oppose capitalism on principle. And don't kind yourselves - they do.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 3:42 PM, jdp245 wrote:

    Actually, these people seem more reasonable and intelligent than what I expected. Can't say I agree with them on all issues (shared wealth? No thank you!). But issues like the decline in prosperity of the middle class and our ridiculous tax structure are things that I think most Americans are unhappy about.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 3:58 PM, deepestvalue wrote:

    I have a analogus example to help you guys understand what the ' Occupy Wall Street' protestors what.

    I am thinking of starting a anti-Golf Pros' protest !!!!

    I have been practicing every day for years and I have realised that I will NEVER catch up with Tiger Woods. The new protest movement will have a clear goal in demanding that each one of us - no exceptions be as good as Tiger Wood. Just the Wall Street people why should Tiger make so much more than me?

    THIS DEMAND AND THIS NEW PROTEST WILL BE AS STUPID AS THE 'OCCUPY WALL STREET' protest. Let us see how far it goes. If it works expect all sorts of stupid new protests....

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 4:13 PM, nick1200 wrote:

    I'll repeat what was said above by TMFinept:

    "..they demand separation of corporation and state. It's just that simple."

    The protesters do not oppose investments, profits or the Motley Fool.

    It's my patriotic duty to continue support the protesters, for the benefits of my fellow Americans.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 4:14 PM, FutureMonkey wrote:

    I am sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters goals of restoring economic prosperity to the people. What we have now is disparity , not prosperity. There is a strong perception of powerlessness of an individual voice to affect change in the face of massive economic and political influence of a small number of people/corporations.

    I am sympathetic to the words of Joseph Stiglitz (nobel laurete economist) "Our financial markets are supposed to allocate capital and manage risks, but they misallocated capital and created risk...We socialize losses and privatize gains...that's not capitalism" Stiglitz points out what a lot of us are feeling - helpless in the face of a game rigged to intolerable "heads I win, tails you lose" situation.

    My dissatisfaction with the movement is the us vs them divisiveness. We are all in this together. We are the corporations - as consumers of the products/services, shareholders in our 401k, and stakeholders in our communities and environment.

    The first step is to recognize that as the consumers "we" hold all the power -- how we spend our money and how we invest is much more powerful than how we vote. Organized and united, peaceful non-cooperation, boycotts, and advertising campaigns can and do make a in the decision making of corporations that are community, customer focused. In the words of Spike Lee...Always Do The Right Thing.



  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 4:41 PM, maestrotvagabond wrote:

    I'll preface this by saying that my families income puts me in the top 20% of income earners.

    I think it is not so much about the fact that there is a one percent out there. There will always be a top percentile. What is wrong is 1% of Americans hold about 6x more wealth than the bottom 80%. That's dysfunctional. It means that one lives the life of Riley, while the others try to scrape by. We left feudalism behind for a reason.

    So, yes, maybe that means mobilizing the tax system so that real educational access and opportunities can be opened up to the bottom 4/5ths of Americans. Freedom does not, and has never meant license. To paraphrase John Stewar Mill, your freedom ends when it creates un-freedom for others (or in this case 80 others).

    We don't need to be equal, but everyone should get a fair shake.


  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 4:44 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    "It's my patriotic duty to continue support the protesters, for the benefits of my fellow Americans."

    That's just wrong...99% of the people at OWS are naive to what Wall Street is. I'm not sure what OWS: New York is like, but OWS: Los Angeles and San Diego, I can tell you that it consists of a bunch of teenagers and collegiate students that found a way to skip class. They don't know what they are talking about, yet its your patriotic duty to support a goal-less revolution that tries to topple the largest international market in history?

    These protestors blame bank of america for the mortgage crisis and they don't want CEOs to be paid so much. Where does this sense of self-entitlement come from? You want to be paid equally to Lloyd Blankfein who graduated summa cum laude, has a law degree, and put in over 20 years in his financial career? Get to that level and if you don't get paid, then protest.

    Lastly, one of the reasons I stay with is because the writers obviously have biases but the staff as a whole is diverse. You mentioned a separation of state and corporations. I can see where that may end the corruption, but thinking about the consequences, can I, and 300 million other americans, rely on the state to do the right things? Pfizer lobbies millions a year to congress to get their products approved and distributed. This results in their products getting into the hands that need it. One wrong move by the state (vote down a proposal), and Pfizer is done. You really would trust the state (where they handle thousands of problems, let alone a drug proposal) over a corporation whose sole purpose is to make money, and make drugs to save lives? Just something to think about for those who are infected with short-term-itis

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 5:06 PM, rodnog wrote:

    As an Aussie living in the states, i sympathise greatly with my American friends. I find it odd that some people get so riled up about these protests, though. If you are content with the way the country is going, and your life is comfortable, i'd think you'd give your fellow man/woman the benefit of the doubt and some sympathy.

    I'm sure that many protesters are just following the herd, and i have seen some ridiculous stuff written by overzealous members of the movement (but it seems that the cooler heads prevail). Still, protests tend to happen for a reason. Do you expect them to have a clear and succinct list of goals? Nothing is that simple, especially with so many voices.

    In Australia, the government pays for our higher education. The debt is indexed at a low annual rate, and paid back as part of our tax, only after we hit something like $38k/year. Our medicare lets us go to certain doctors for free. In some states, ambulance fees are included as a small charge on our power bill.

    I sincerely hope my American friends can attain such safety nets from their government some day soon.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 6:15 PM, Milligram46 wrote:



    Why do you think Olivia Newton-John moved? And how dare you destroy a whole generation with that demon music from the Electric Company or AC Converter or 110VAC or ADD or AC/DC or what ever you call those devils!


    j/ik - mad love for Australia and I love my Holden Commodore - ya you read that right L76 under the hood and all - you Aussies sure do know how to make a car that is totally bonkers.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 8:50 PM, TimothyVR wrote:


    You must find life very difficult in the US. You certainly have a romantic and idealistic view of the protesters!

    Why on earth would you live here? Are you forced to because of your job?

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 10:42 PM, Gloomfrost wrote:

    It's really funny to see the random (if anything at all) people answer for 'what is your end game?'

    That's sort of one of the MAIN questions they should ask themselves before they come, then maybe no one would be there. i.e:

    "Why are you here?"

    "To protest against corruption, greed, etc.."

    "What do you want?"


    "Okay, so.. what exactly do you want?"

    "I dunno.. you're right, I should probably go home."

    TL;DR: I don't think the majority of people there know what exactly they want, and they're just coming out because they have no job or are bored and detest people who are greedy (a natural human trait in the first place. I wonder how many of them would do anything if they were in "the 1%")..

  • Report this Comment On October 15, 2011, at 9:44 AM, DonkeyJunk wrote:

    I am saddened by the number of people who complain about the lack of singular focus for OWS when there are clearly a number of issues. Rule by the few is a huge issue--no, it isn't fair that wealthy corporations can shape legislature (once officials are elected, they're beyond the voter's control and into the lobbyists); accelerating wealth disparity is an issue, only because that wealth is used, again, to sway legislation in favor of the 1%, and because wages are not increasing for the lower tiers fast enough to keep up with inflation; profit-only driven business is an issue--manufacturing iProducts for $5 to sell for $300; charging ATM fees to withdraw your own money because profits aren't high enough and to pay for a service (because earning interest off of loans and credit cards isn't hugely profitable enough); 30 years ago you could pay your way through school with a summer job, now you have to work full time year round to pay tuition for your middle-of-the-road state college (I did, and that was 10 years ago).

    There are a variety of problems here, and to scoff at them is to simply set yourself up for a fall later down the road if the issues are not resolved and a larger and larger percentage fall behind. I don't begrudge corporations their wealth, though I might begrudge their means of getting it.

    Are there beatniks and whiners in the OWS crowd? You bet. Just as surely as there were bigots and crackpots in the Tea Party crowd. But don't assume everyone is without important purpose and that it cannot, or should not, have a useful impact on the way things work.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2011, at 7:01 PM, allforfree wrote:

    Give me your tired, your poor,

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    America: Land of the FREE (get it...?)

    I say, let everyone come who wants to- from anywhere in the world. Heck, we'll even pay to bring them here. Then we grow faster by birth than China and immigrate overflow illegally into Canada too. We back spill geographically back into Mexica then. Everyone gets governement subsidy - rich or poor - until all we have is a government economy. But everything is FREE! Healthcare, food, housing, cars, education, alcohol, ipads, internet service, cigarettes, drugs of your choice...

    Then the government tells you what you will DO to continue to recieve your FREE stuff...after all - there are more people coming who want to get here since it is all FREE for them too!

    No need to have more babies by the way - it doesn't impact the FREE stuff you get. The government however does need more people to DO things for them in order to provide things FREE. So enjoy them until they become just old enough to be useful to the government who can put them to work providing all the FREE stuff….continued…

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2011, at 7:02 PM, allforfree wrote:

    Chapter 2

    Gangs disband because there are no more drugs to smuggle or sell or people to prey on - NICE! No one to smuggle in anymore because border patrol and control no longer exists. Prisoners are released to the new SOCIETY to live off the FREE handouts too. No one to steal from because what other people end up with is exactly what they have - NOTHING - but NOTHING is FREE! By the way prostitution is FREE and government provided upon demand.

    Sidearms are the new essential part of your fashion if you venture out in the streets - and may the best shots survive. Funerals and burials are FREE - provided by the government.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2011, at 7:02 PM, allforfree wrote:

    Final Chapter

    We withdraw the military from everywhere in the globe to US bases on OUR SHORE. We watch the radar and the horizon through binoculars for anyone who might want to invade, but we wait until they get here before we do anything about it. Maybe we just say "Welcome" - stay a while - we'll give YOU everything FREE too!

    No incentive to 'get ahead' - whatever you contribute is just what goes to others in the new FREE economy.

    Communism - Socialism - ??? End Game.

    Let me know how it goes - I'm moving for now to...oh wait...

  • Report this Comment On October 19, 2011, at 9:35 PM, cmbourne wrote:

    None of these kids have a job?

    I have always had to work to get something to eat and a place to sleep.

    All these rich kids on permanent vacations like to protest for the cameras.,

    Then they say they want MORE??

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2011, at 6:04 AM, Laoshe wrote:

    To clear this up, here is what the OWS in NY want:

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