The atmosphere and voices of Occupy Wall Street
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Kai Ryssdal: Our Friday regular John Carney from CNBC had an idea the other day. He’s in New York and he’s a reporter, so he figured, why not go just down and camp out along with the Occupy Wall Street crowd? See what’s really going on?
He even set up something of a Speakers’ Corner, an open mic kind of thing for those with something to say.
Speakers: ‘My name’s Bruce, I’m a professor at City College. I’m here for the same reason as everyone else, to demonstrate against corporate greed.’ ‘My name’s Harry Braun, I’m a Democratic presidential candidate against President Obama.’ ‘Hello, my name is David, I’m a businessman here in New York, and I’m here for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m here because I love America, and I want us to restore our democracy.’
You can find more at CNBC.com. For now, though, John Carney himself in Lower Manhattan. Hey John, how are you?
John Carney: I’m doing great, Kai.
Ryssdal: So how was your night last night, man?
Carney: It was long and late, but you know, there’s a lot of people here to keep you company in the park.
Ryssdal: Tell me about it. What’s it like?
Carney: It’s got a little bit of a festival atmosphere. A lot of people hanging out; there’s drums on both sides of the park today so there’s a constant drumbeat wherever you are. It feels a little bit like you might be in the parking lot for a Phish concert.
Ryssdal: What are you learning, John? I mean, with the Speaker’s Corner you guys set up, and the amount of time you’ve been spending down there — what’s the story they’re telling?
Carney: A lot of the complaints are actually very mainstream when you come down to it. It’s people talking about things we talk about all the time: The economy, jobs and debt. A lot of the young people here say, ‘Look, I graduated college, I’ve got $80,000 in student loans and I can’t find a job. This isn’t the deal that I was told I would get.’ And they feel shut out. There’s also a lot of complaints about whether we have politics that’s responsive to people’s needs these days.
Ryssdal: Yeah. They are getting a lot more attention than they did even a week or two ago. Did they think — the people you’re talking to down there on Wall Street — did they think this is going to go anywhere and they’re going to get satisfaction?
Carney: They do think that it’s going to keep growing, and they’ve been right. When I was here a week ago, there was probably half as many people as there are today. It’s Columbus Day, it’s a holiday, so maybe that’s helped people show up. But there’s a ton of people here. We could barely find room just to sit down with a microphone and have this conversation right now.
Ryssdal: Is there a sense of anger or is it frustration? And I know that’s kind of a fine line.
Carney: It’s not as angry as I thought it would be. There’s frustration, but the people here are walking around with smiles on their faces. I think they think that they’re accomplishing something just by raising awareness to their presence here. And so, they’re pretty happy actually.
Ryssdal: So you’ve been doing this a long time, John — covering Wall Street. And I’d be curious as to your take on why this is happening now. Why this moment in time?
Carney: The anger that might have erupted a couple of years ago was delayed in part by the election of Barack Obama. That filled people with hope, it made them think that something would change. But you know, as the years passed, the economy didn’t improve; they didn’t feel like the government became more responsive, so I think that was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, was as the economy started to tank again this summer, people got fed up and decided that they were going to take to the parks.
Ryssdal: And what about you? It’s not every day you go and spend the night on the streets. I mean, why are you there?
Carney: For me, this is a totally different kind of story. I’m used to talking to guys who work for investment banks, talking to big businesses. And I get to now hang out in a park and talk to totally different people. This is great for me.
Ryssdal: John Carney, he’s a regular on our regular Weekly Wrap. His day job is running the blog NetNet at CNBC.com. John, thanks a lot.
Carney: Thank you.
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