Occupy Wall Street: The Many Faces @ Zuccotti....

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“I’m here because everything is all screwed up," said Petra Lebnik, from New Jersey, who quit her job and sleeps in a sleeping bag with a few of her friends at Zucotti Park.

[Occupy Wall Street]

ZUCCOTTI PARK, New York--I went to Zuccotti Park and spotted Norman Jay, a middle-aged Jewish man with a gray beard eating pizza, and drinking a soda at a pizzeria a few blocks away from the area.

He catches my attention, and tells me that he’s from Brooklyn and he talks about the protest. “We have to play a chess game against these people, and we have to do what Martin Luther King would do –boycott these rats!”

Who does he want the protestors to boycott? Big oil companies? Wall Street? Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Jay’s proposal of a boycott may sound a bit extreme to some people.

He also noticed the media's attempts to skew people's perceptions; to generate hostility towards the protestors. “On the street, you see ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and all the other TV trucks. They show the pictures of the hippies and some lost soul in the crowd, but it’s more than the image they show,” he said.

Jay knows where the problem started, here, on Wall Street: where the savings and loan crisis cost taxpayers about $124 billion in the 1980s. Where investment banks promoted and sparked Internet companies, knowing many would fail, resulting in the stock bubble bursting; resulting in $5 trillion in investor losses in the 1990s. Where derivatives and mortgages with other loans and debts spiraled the market downward, leaving investment banks with hundreds of billions of dollars in loans, CDOs and real estate they could not unload; taxpayers had to shell out the difference to save Wall Street from bankruptcy.

The economic free fall began around November 2007, and in March 2008, when Bear Stearns ran out of cash. In September of that year, the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Two days later, Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Merrill Lynch was on the edge of the cliff, then was acquired by Bank of America. AIG was taken over by the government. The next day, United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke asked Congress for $700 billion to bail out the banks. The global financial system became paralyzed. Layoffs and foreclosures continued with unemployment rising in the U.S. And in December 2008, GM and Chrysler faced bankruptcy. Foreclosures in the U.S. reached unprecedented levels. It was all a mess. And still is.

So the pull to be here at Zuccotti is strong.

“I’m here because everything is all screwed up," said Petra Lebnik, from New Jersey, who quit her job and sleeps in a sleeping bag with a few of her friends at Zucotti Park. She has a broom in her hand, sweeping up the area where they sleep. “I hope that more and more people come together and unite, because we can’t keep going on and living the way we do.”

Clouds darkened when I was there the other day; there was a light drizzle, but the protestors are prepared for the elements.

“I’m here because I love my country,” Joel Burton, a young African-American from Westchester, who dropped out of college, explained. “But the real reason is the economic disparity. I want to see some people go to jail.”

That would be hard to do. How can someone be arrested when the reality of their crime on Wall Street was that the moneymen were just taking absolutely worthless stuff, buying and selling them, then fleeing the scene?

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that their attention is grabbed - and that Wall Street understands our voice. And what we’re trying to do, is simply try to make sure Wall Street invest in things that matter,” said Michael Stewart-Isaacs from Raleigh, North Carolina, who is a motivational speaker and television host.

“We have to see the movement in the right way. It’s like the sea. And like the sea, it has pollinated to other cities across America – and soon it’s going to go across the world. And what’s going to happen, like the sea, is that it’s going to set in the ground with one idea, but it’s going to leave new ideas.”

“It’s a spiritual movement that manifested itself in different ways,” said Tom Fox, from New York City, a carpenter with three kids, who took off from work to protest. “Everybody has their own concerns, their own agenda, their personal history, and they all care enough to be out here to give their views and want to change the world to make it a better place,” he said.

“It’s not an angry or hostile movement. It’s not resentful. It based on love. That is the essence of the movement. People are not out here for selfish motives. They’re out here because they’re idealistic. It cut across all races. All ages. And that’s the essence of the movement.”

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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