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Protests Against Big Business Spread in US

Protesters from Occupy Wall Street walk past the New York Stock Exchange dressed as zombies on Monday, October 3rd.
Protesters from Occupy Wall Street walk past the New York Stock Exchange dressed as zombies on Monday, October 3rd.

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Protests that began last month near Wall Street in New York have now spread to other American cities. The Occupy movement differs from the Tea Party movement. Tea Partiers blame big government for the country's economic problems. Occupiers blame big business. One young activist puts it this way.

MAN: "I feel like the middle class has been almost completely wiped out now. Now, you have got the bottom class and the top class."

Susan Arnett came from California to attend an Occupy DC rally in Washington on Thursday.

SUSAN ARNETT: "It is about the war. It is about the corruption. It is about the greed."

Many protesters said they were inspired by the Arab Spring movement and protests in Europe.

Lourdes Parallobre of Miami says she is about to graduate from a university and owes twenty thousand dollars in student loans.

LOURDES PARALLOBRE: "I have an endless amount of friends who have master's degrees, bachelor's degrees, and are working in restaurants. And I am terrified that is going to happen to me."

The protesters marched to the United States Chamber of Commerce and denounced the business interests that the group represents.

WOMAN: "They are sitting on two trillion dollars in profits right now, corporations are. Their taxes are at their lowest level in fifty years. Our unemployment rate is at nine percent."

The marchers also stopped outside the White House. Inside, at a news conference, a reporter asked President Obama about the movement.

BARACK OBAMA: "Obviously I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen it on television. 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 protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works."

(SINGING: "Wall Street is full of clowns, Wall Street is full of clowns.")

Occupy Wall Street protesters have camped in New York’s financial district since the middle of September. Police have made hundreds of arrests for blocking traffic.

On Wednesday members of labor unions and community groups joined the demonstrations.

SPEAKER: "They said they needed to rescue Wall Street and the Big Three automakers to stimulate the economy and that meant jobs. Three years later, there is still no jobs!"

The rally included truck drivers, teachers, nurses and transportation workers.

Protesters say the wealthiest one percent of Americans control too much of the nation's wealth. The protesters say they represent the other ninety-nine percent.

Jason Ahmadi, an organizer, says the movement’s demands are still a work in progress.

JASON AHMADI: "Everybody is coming here for their own reason, and we're still shaping unity, and we're coming together, but we're also constantly growing. So it's very difficult to, you know, to make a claim about a demand of the ninety-nine percent."

He notes some of the other cities where protests have taken place.

JASON AHMADI: "You know, occupy Los Angeles just happened the other night with three hundred and fifty people, I hear. In San Francisco, in Boston, in Chicago. A lot of us are, you know, inspired by things going on in North Africa, in Spain, in Greece, in London. So, you know, I think this is really something I'd like to see as a global movement that's starting."

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Alex Villarreal.


Contributing: Selah Hennessy, Dan Robinson, Jerome Socolovsky and Carolyn Weaver