As the Occupy Wall Street protests enter their second month, they have expanded to cities across the country and are gaining momentum and press coverage. According to a recent Rasmussen Poll, 79 percent of Americans agree with the statement that the “The big banks got bailed but the middle class got left behind."
As the Center for American Progress’s Gadi Dechter writes, the protestors are correct in bringing much-needed attention to issues like a rigged tax code, rising inequality, and shrinking economic mobility. And with the protests continuing to grow, many public figures and groups have thrown their support behind the movement and expressed understanding of the participants’ frustrations and anger:
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place. So yes, I think people are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works."
—President Barack Obama
“For 30 years, America’s middle class has watched its living standards erode while the wealthiest one percent amass fortunes that would make the Robber Barons blush. The gap between the haves and have not’s continues to widen in the wake of the 2008 recession, precipitated by the banking industry. Yet we are told we cannot afford to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires to pay for better roads and help close this deficit? That’s not right. It’s time for all Americans to pay their fair share. And I’m so proud to see the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to this rampant corporate greed and peacefully participating in our democracy.”
— Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
“We have been inspired by the growing grassroots movements on Wall Street and across the country. We share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefitting the super wealthy. We join the calls for corporate accountability and expanded middle-class opportunity.”
— Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), in a joint statement.
"These young people on Wall Street are giving voice to many of the problems that working people in America have been confronting over the last several years,"
— Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which has 20,000 members in the New York area.
“The workers who build America – the half-million men and women of LIUNA – are united behind the fight against corporate tyranny and for economic prosperity for all and stands with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and across the United States.”
— Terry O’Sullivan, General President of Laborer’s International Union of North America.
“The United Steelworkers union stands in solidarity with and strongly supports Occupy Wall Street. The brave men and women, many of them young people without jobs, who have been demonstrating around-the-clock for nearly two weeks in New York City, are speaking out for the many in our world. We are fed up with the corporate greed, corruption and arrogance that have inflicted pain on far too many for far too long.”
— Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers.
Activists and intellectuals:
“The Occupation of Wall Street — and the occupations throughout the country — are expressions of the same spirit and dynamic. And these particular demonstrations, perhaps uniquely, contain the spark to grow into a movement that can be transformative. They are the first, small step in the creation of a movement that can restore American Democracy, and renew the American Dream.”
— Van Jones, Progressive Activist and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
“So let this protest first #OccupyWallSt, and then #OccupyKSt. And then let the anger and outrage that it has made clear lead many more Americans to #OccupyMainSt, and reclaim this republic. For if done right, this movement just may have that potential. What the protesters are saying is true: Wall Street’s money has corrupted this democracy. What they are demanding is right: An end to that corruption. And as Flickr feeds and tweets awaken a slumbering giant, the People, the justice in this, yet another American revolution, could well become overwhelming, and finally have an effect.”
— Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
“We applaud the action the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken to highlight the inequity and unfairness of the society in which we live. We strongly support the movement and wish it every success. We are in this together.”
— American Association of University Professors, in a statement.
At the same time, many political figures and commentators are denouncing the protests as Anti-American, misguided, and dangerous:
“I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country. And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.”
— Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Majority Leader.
“They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone.”
— Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
“It is a classic mob uprising: it’s classically incoherent, they’re always left wing, and completely destructive.”
— Ann Coulter, commentator.
“They hate corporations. They hate capitalism. In the end, ultimately, they want statism over free markets. So they really don’t like freedom.”
— Sean Hannity, commentator.