News / USA

Anti-Wall Street Protest Spreads To Washington

The anti-capitalist protests that began near Wall Street in New York are spreading to other cities.  Unlike the Tea Party movement, which blames big government for America's economic problems, the so-called Occupy movement holds big business responsible.  Our reporter went to its first rally in Washington, DC.

The drumbeat of the so called "Occupy" movement is getting louder, as it spreads from Wall Street to Washington, and spans generations.

"We have spent $3-trillion to send our kids to war," a group of older women sang from the stage. "Well no not all the kids, just the brown, the black, the poor."

Susan Arnett came from California to be at the protest.

"It is about the war," she said. "It is about the corruption.  It is about the greed."

As in New York, anti-capitalism was a key theme of Occupy DC.  The rally was symbolically held amidst the edifices of the U.S. government on Washington's Freedom Plaza.

There are a lot of different kinds of people here.  There are war veterans, students, artists, even government employees, who feel that there is a lot wrong with America in areas like education, infrastructure, the spending on the war.  And they are blaming a lot of it on the corporations in this country."

Jim Goodnow says America has changed since he was drafted for the Vietnam War.

"When I grew up we thought this was a country of 'We the people.  Of the people, by the people, for the people.'  Today, it is not. It is a corporation.  It is a country of the corporations," said Goodnow.

Many young protesters say they were inspired by the Arab Spring and the "indignados" of Spain.
Lourdes Parallobre of Miami says she is about to graduate from university owing $20,000 in student loans.

"I have an endless amount of friends who have masters degrees, bachelors degrees, and are working in restaurants," said Parallobre. "And I am terrified that is going to happen to me."

The protesters marched to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and decried the power of the business interests it represents.

"They are sitting on $2-trilliion in profits right now, corporations are," said a protester. "Their taxes are at their lowest level in 50 years.  Our unemployment rate is at nine percent."

The marchers, many of whom voted for Barack Obama, also stopped at the White House.  Inside, the president acknowledged the movement for the first time.

"I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel," said President Obama. "

The Occupy protesters also got the support of organized labor on Wednesday.  They are now setting up camp in Washington and hoping their movement gains momentum.  

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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