Kai Ryssdal: It took a while, but the protests that have been happening in other countries for months finally landed in the United States with Occupy Wall Street. It’s not like protests against Wall Street are anything new. There’ve been plenty over the years, going back to the days of JP Morgan himself.
The present-day versions have attracted enough people to shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, take over Times Square and march to billionaires’ Manhattan townhomes. They have a lot of energy, a lot of emotion — and if you work on Wall Street, maybe some danger, too.
Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore has the story.
Crowd: Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets.
Heidi Moore: When the Occupy Wall Street protests started last month, they used Wall Street as a symbol. But now, they want to put a human face on it.
Protesters have marched on the homes of billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, and Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan. A popular website published the cell phone numbers of the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
Josh Brown: There’s a small contingent of people on Wall Street that understand why there’s anger. But then there’s a growing sense that it’s starting to become personal.
That’s Josh Brown, with Fusion Analytics. He’s been to Zuccotti Park and he says the protesters are nonviolent. But there have been clashes with police.
And emotions are running high, says Richard Lipstein. He recruits people for Wall Street jobs.
Richard Lipstein: If a Wall Street professional went up to a demonstrator and started saying, “I’m from Wall Street, I don’t agree with what you’re doing,” god knows what would happen.
And there’s the feeling that face-to-face confrontation is not far off. A new website, Occupy the Boardroom, lists the names of financial executives and encourages protesters to telephone or email them or even “pursue them to the ends of the earth.” The site instructs people not to harass the executives. But harassment is in the eyes of the beholder. Here’s Lipstein again.
Lipstein: There is some validity and some credibility to what the protesters are saying. It’s that personalizing it does damage to their point of view.
Since the financial crisis, bankers and traders are used to laying low. The Blackstone Group has no signs on its offices; T. Rowe Price has a new, unidentified skyscraper just steps from the sleeping bags of the Occupy Baltimore group. In New York, some young finance workers go to work in jeans so their suits don’t mark them for trouble.
Yet Chris Whalen, a former investment banker, says bankers have nothing to be afraid of. And with thousands of layoffs coming to Wall Street, the protests might even pick up some bankers.
Chris Whalen: I haven’t heard of any bankers being assaulted. And I think the bankers ought to put on their pinstripes and go to the protests.
For the foreseeable future, however, most Wall Streeters plan to give the protests a wide berth.
In New York, I’m Heidi Moore for Marketplace.
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