Street survey: Occupy Wall Street

We talked with Wall Street protestors and observers about their involvement in the demonstrations, how long they're willing to hold out and how they see the occupation ending.

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  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Andres V., 21, restaurant shift manager, Chicago
    "I'm with the YCL, the Young Communist League. If you go through history, you realize the crazy-exploitative nature that the system has on regular people. It's kind of ridiculous that 'the system' has been turned into a clich, but if you look at industry---the way that workers are exploited every single day, the way that America exports jobs and exploits the people that [the jobs] go to---these are real things. The misconception that the public has is that America will never be wrong, and the media will perpetuate that no matter what happens. It's the capitalist system run amok."

    "It's going to end when these people [motions to crowd] that are thinking that this is a tourist spot will literally break these walls [referring to the fence around the protest] down. It's a problem of making regular citizens activists, and that has historically been extremely hard."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Brett R., 24; member of OWS Press Working Group; Port Imperial, New Jersey
    "I've been out here four weeks now, and I'll be here until it is complete. How do I define complete? Economic justice and a lot of reform. When a CEO of Wall Street is going to pay less than I do in taxes, that's a problem for me. It's going to take a while. It's not going to be next week or the following week. It'll be months, if not years."

    "I'm not sure it's going to end. A lot of people want to see us be a political movement or whatever else, and yeah, change is going to have to come [at] the polls. But I don't think we need to be a political movement in the way that the Tea Party is. A lot of people have tried to link us to the Tea Party. We share a similar interest, I think, in reforming things, but the things we want reformed aren't necessarily the same, and the ways we want to do it are very much not the same."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Daniela L., 23, Miami
    "I've been here for three weeks now and I'll be out here however long it takes to see the change that we need."

    "In my perfect world, [I'd] like to have my factories in America. [I'd] like to be able to have a lot of the items we have in America made in America. I would like to stop importing a lot of products and exporting a lot of jobs. I really want some stronger immigration laws, because I've had a lot of instances where I've had my job taken away by cheaper labor. So I really would like more opportunities and to be able to achieve my American Dream a lot easier."

    "I really am not a fortune teller, but this could go a couple ways. We could end up with police brutality and get surrounded by the cops and all go to jail, and a couple of us probably could end up being shot or whatever. Or they could realize that they're acting on their greed a little bit too much and we could actually have some change."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Farrell J., 54; artist; Red Hook, Brooklyn
    "I've been out since the second day it started and I'll be here as long as we can hold out. I think the weather's going to be a big factor. As long as you [can] keep yourself dry and in good spirits and try not to antagonize your neighbor, you're okay."

    "I'm with the American Indian Movement (aimovement.org) of Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. We're trying to get [a] Ustream up so we can contact other reservations and communities in North America. We don't expect too much to happen, because we don't have dialogue with George Soros, or [the] World Bank, or whoever. The main thing is to go about your business and organize amongst yourselves and get some sort of collective economics going."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Foo C., 26, member of OWS Press Working Group, Pittsburgh
    "I was here [for] two to three weeks in October and then I went to visit all the other Occupies in the Northeast. I went to Pittsburgh, Philly, State College; [each] one's a little bit different. I've seen groups from 20 people camping out in a smaller park like this, [to] groups of 200 people camping out in Pittsburgh. Philly has probably 250---easily---staying."

    "The fate of this movement is not just Zuccotti Park. There's thousands of occupations around the world. So while people look to us as kind of a shining light, they are shining light onto themselves."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Kanaska C., 26; musician; Ottawa, Ontario
    "Since I've been here there's been a wide range of reasons why people are frustrated, from genetically modified foods to oppression of [humans, animals and the environment] and foreclosure of homes. There's so many reasons, and it really makes you realize how fucked up the world is. It's like, what are we doing?"

    "I've already got everything I need. I'm from Canada so I have health care, but I want people here to have the same things that we have up there. I came here for September 11 to do activism, and six days later this happens. I feel like my whole life's been working up to this point. I'll be here until the end."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Kiersten G., 34; grad student; Williamsburg, Brooklyn
    "A bunch of us who aren't able to stay overnight or aren't able to be here more often want to find ways to contribute, so those of us that are fiber artists and knit for fun have been making squares to put together as blankets, scarves, hats and gloves. This is the third or fourth Sunday I've come down."

    "I don't want to see things end. I don't know that I have a fully formulated outcome that I'd like to see happen, but the most exciting thing about what's happening is that things are changing all the time and that everybody's talking about what should happen. It's not a fixed formula, which I think is really refreshing."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Linda P., 60, family physician, Upper West Side
    "I've been down here for various events, usually health care--related stuff. I really don't have a vision for it ending. The need to support the 99 percent against the one percent is probably not going to go away in the near future."

    "I'm part of an organization called Physicians for a National Health Program (pnhp.org) and we're advocating for a system where health care is paid for by the government---like in Canada. Everyone just has a card, they swipe it when they go to the doctor and it has their medical information on it, and [their care] gets paid for. Everyone's just covered automatically. Most industrialized countries have that, or something close to that. We're way, way behind when it comes to covering all of our population."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Robin R., 51, disabled, Staten Island
    "I've been out here for two weeks, and I'll stay here until they tell us we must go, without a doubt. I'm basically just watching everybody's stuff and doing a little community relations because it's sad we don't have a very good reputation. That little tent---that seven-by-seven [feet]---is better than the apartment that I have in Staten Island. It doesn't have cockroaches, it doesn't have mice, and if the ceiling leaks I can duct tape it. And my landlord's not trying to kick me out! [Laughs]"

    "I'm here for health care for the 99 percent. When I got cancer, I got wiped out financially. It also took out my credit rating. Now I can't go back into retail management because I can't pass a credit check. I'm screwed. People yell at me and say, 'If you didn't have insurance and you can't afford it, you should have died.' That's the Tea Party's mantra. How do you tell another human being that?"

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Troy T., 22; general contractor; Hockessin, Delaware
    "I've been here on and off for 25 days or so. I'm actually leaving today to go back to [Wilmington], Delaware, where our Occupy is. I'm going to help with that for a while and then I'll probably come back up here again. I'm going to hop around to all of them and see how they're doing. To be honest, I never really want to see this end until every single demand is met."

    "I'm not with [the] Sustainability [Working Group], but I can tell you about the bikes. The generator part was made somewhere in Brooklyn. They charge a battery, where there's an AC/DC converter that goes to the power strip, and you can plug anything you want in it. This one here is for the kitchen."

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Victoria B., 28; research analyst for a renewable energy investment firm; Fort Greene, Brooklyn
    "It's my second time out here. I come mostly with friends just to see what's going on, but not really to stay and participate much. I come more for the scene."

    "I wish something would happen out of all of it, but I don't think it's going to. It's good that they're drawing attention to certain things, like tax loopholes, but I think that's the most that will happen. I think it's going to end when it gets too cold for most of the people to stay here, and then they kick out the few that are left. It's kind of sad, but it can't go on forever."

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Andres V., 21, restaurant shift manager, Chicago
"I'm with the YCL, the Young Communist League. If you go through history, you realize the crazy-exploitative nature that the system has on regular people. It's kind of ridiculous that 'the system' has been turned into a clich, but if you look at industry---the way that workers are exploited every single day, the way that America exports jobs and exploits the people that [the jobs] go to---these are real things. The misconception that the public has is that America will never be wrong, and the media will perpetuate that no matter what happens. It's the capitalist system run amok."

"It's going to end when these people [motions to crowd] that are thinking that this is a tourist spot will literally break these walls [referring to the fence around the protest] down. It's a problem of making regular citizens activists, and that has historically been extremely hard."

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