After two weeks of disparaging press and occasional pepper spray, it looks like the motley crew at Occupy Wall Street is finally getting some decent attention. Cornel West has voiced his approval. Radiohead almost sort of played a concert there. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka embraced the protest earlier today, and a collection of New York’s formidable organized labor coalitions—including the United Federation of Teachers, 1199 SEIU, and Transport Workers Union Local 100—voted unanimously to support them.
Intrigued by misinformation surrounding the protests and protesters, we recently took an irresponsibly long lunch break, hopped on the 4/5, and went down to Liberty Square to talk to them ourselves. We found a crunchy, diverse, mostly young group of people that both belied and adhered to the stereotypes imposed on them. Plenty of people were just there for the ride (“What do you do for a living?” we asked a young woman with a pink asymmetrical haircut; “I just, like, you know, fuck things up,” she said), but most of the activists we talked to were compelled to protest by legitimate grievances and systemic, socioeconomic concerns.
Our first interview was with Robert, a 24-year-old organizer from California who hitchhiked across the country in order to participate. Keep a look out for more voices from the protest throughout the coming week. You can read the Nation’s crash course on who the protesters are and what they want here.
—Jin Zhao and Teresa Cotsirilos