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Who is occupying Wall Street? Not just your average Joe

msnbc.com visited the Occupy Wall Street protesters at Zucotti park in New York this week. Here are some of the people we met.

John Makely / msnbc.com

Shane Stoops prepares meals for others gathered at Zucotti Park on Oct. 5 for the Occupy Wall Street protest.

by Miranda Leitsinger / msnbc.com

Shane Stoops, a 23-year-old self-described “renaissance man” and nomad from Port Orchard, Wash., said he learned of the protest on his first night in the city – which happened to be the second day of the encampment. He has been there ever since, doing what he can to help keep the movement running. Today, he is helping prepare food for the demonstrators. Stoops is also handing out his resume daily.

“I’ve just been here learning what there is to know. … I didn’t even know that a protest was going to be going on.”

What keeps you here?

“There are a lot of different messages going on here. However, we have one common one: We don’t want big business owning any of us anymore. We’re tired of that.”

How long will you stay here?

“I’m definitely committed until we are either arrested or beaten to death.”

What would be mission accomplished?

“Mission accomplished would be when the entire world is globally dynamic and we’re sitting here and nobody has to starve death. … I want the world to be united.” He had earlier elaborated that a global dynamic was “where everybody works for a common goal for humanity,” such as ending starvation and providing free education.

What do you say to critics of this movement?

“We’re too big to ignore now. We’re opening more and more eyes.”

What do you think this movement could become?

“A global revolution. I believe that every race, every religion, every person in the world can eventually come to terms with that -- we can all work together.”

John Makely / msnbc.com

Elad Ozeri, 31, brings his son Ron, 18 months old, to the Occupy Wall Street march.

Elad Ozeri, 31, from Jerusalem, Israel, came down to the protest with his 18-month old son, Ron. He moved to New York two months ago, where his wife is studying for her doctorate. It was his first day at the camp, and he said he’ll try to spend a week there. While he spoke with msnbc.com, Ron ate a bagel and toddled around his dad.

Why are you here?

“We had a similar demonstration in Israel the whole summer. … I think it was almost the same idea but maybe it was more political in Israel, I don’t know. … It’s (the protest there) how to live, how to make a living, how to pay the rent and you know, I think the idea is to stop the robber barons. … And I think it’s the same idea here: to have a decent life, a simple life.”

What’s your specific grievance?

“I’m not against people with a lot of money but it depends where the money comes from.”

Do you think this movement could grow?

“I do think that it has the potential” but it must become populist, “so more people can relate to that.”

What would make you think mission accomplished?

“I just say enough for what’s happening. … I’m not a citizen here and I’m not that involved, but I think it’s just important to be here, for me.”

John Makely / msnbc.com

Sade Adona, 25, in New York with other Occupy Wall Street protesters on Oct. 5.

Sade Adona, a 25-year-old from Oakland, Calif., now residing in Brooklyn, has lived at the camp site for 1.5 weeks and said she is in for the long haul. At one of her three jobs, her hours were cut severely; at another, they cut a program she was teaching. Financial troubles forced her out of her apartment and to take a semester off of school. She now rents a room in a friend’s place.

Why are you here?

“There are just a lot of things going on … I feel like it’s greatly important to be a part of the cause, everybody counts. … I’m down here to support; I’m down here to, like, just make sure that I am aware of what’s going on so that I can report back to others,” she said, noting she was first moved to join the protest by the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia and also was concerned about the tough economic times and employment opportunities.

What do you say to critics?

“I want to hear where they’re coming from,” Adona said.

She also pushed back criticism from some saying “that we are just, like, angry college-age students” and “lazy” … (but) I’m here in between time camping out when I’m not at work.”

What would be mission accomplished?

“The acknowledgement is good enough for me,” such as a nod from the federal government of the movement, she said. “But if people were still out here and there was a reason, and I could find myself on accord with that reason, I would probably be out here still.”

John Makely / msnbc.com

Sue VanDerzee, 65, left, and Gloria Earls, 66, both from Connecticut, join the crowd for the Occupy Wall Street march.

Grandmothers and friends, Gloria Earls, a retired teacher from Middletown, Conn., and Sue VanDerzee, a retired newspaper editor from Durham, Conn., traveled to the Occupy Wall Street site for the day and they hope to come back with more people.

Why are you here?

“I’m here to protest against corporate greed ... It seems like money is the bottom line for any action that our country takes,” said Earls, 66.

“We’re worried about our grandkids, too. … I want our grandkids to grow up and, you know, have a world to live in, and Americans use way too much of it,” said VanDerzee, 65.

What do you want?

To “take money out of politics” and to “stop the wars,” VanDerzee said.

What do you hope this becomes?

“If it has to be a revolution, it may be just that time – and I’m willing to work for that,” Earls said.

How do you respond to critics of this movement?

“Get your head on straight and, you know, look around.  It’s not as rosy as they’re painting it,” Earls said.

John Makely / msnbc.com

Ashley Valdespino and Luis Lluicota in Zucotti Park for the Occupy Wall Street march.

Friends and college students Luis Lliguicota, 20, and Ashley Valdespino, 19, are also part-time workers who have had to take out loans to pay for their education. They study at a college north of the city.

Why are you here? “The student loans and the financial aid that’s available. Basically, it’s a circle of debt with us. Like it’s over and over, I already owe money. And I think that education should be free or [cost] less money. … Our students are our future and that’s what needs to be addressed here,” Valdespino said.

Lliguicota said his concern about corporate greed brought him downtown. He works in a grocery store, where the hours have been cut.

“How are we going to get out of debt if we can’t even get money?” he said. “We’re working every day, every week, check by check.”

How do you respond to critics of this movement?

“They can’t relate … there is going to be negativity to anything anybody does,” Valdespino said.

What do you think this could become?

“The reason I am here is to see what can come out of this … I think it is uniting the people [of] our generation so far,” Valdespino said.

“We need to be educated about what’s going on in the world so I am here for that,” Lliguicota said.

What would be a mission accomplished?

“I don’t know yet … [I’m] waiting for it,” Valdespino said.

“I want to end corporate greed, so hopefully equality – you know, the way they distribute the wealth,” Lliguicota said.

John Makely / msnbc.com

John Reiner, 49, in Zucotti Park waiting for the Occupy Wall Street march to start.

Jon Reiner, a 49-year-old New Yorker laid off three times since 2001 from marketing executive jobs, has been without work for five years despite sending out what he figures to be 2,000 resumes. Now a stay-at-home dad of two boys, he has journeyed down to the camp for four days while his sons are at school.

What do you want?

To enforce the corporate tax code … corporations do everything they can obviously to find loopholes in the tax code to avoid paying their fair share.”

What do you hope this movement becomes?

“My hope would be that, like all great social movements, that it gets so large in number and influence that it fundamentally changes the priorities of our elected officials so that they believe then that it’s their obligation to serve individuals and not corporations.”

What do you say to critics of this movement?

“I think that most grassroots movements that I am aware of start out messy and disorganized but they do come together because there is some galvanizing need … I think it’s unfair to dismiss what is a real national crisis because it looks as though it’s less than serious.”

What would make you go home (or say “mission accomplished”)?

“I think that it’s important to maintain this as a national issue either in this park or by other means of organizing in a collective effort until there is significant change in the priorities of government, with regard to the government’s role in creating a more equitable economic system.”

For more on Jon Reiner's story click here.

John Makely / msnbc.com

Dennis and Elizabeth Carbone prepare to march in the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Retired New York City couple Elizabeth and Dennis Carbone have made a few trips to the camp since the protest began on September 17. At one time, they were resident managers of a corporate bed-and-breakfast. They had to live in a shelter once, and now a dispute over their rent may land them there again. Their 51-year-old son died from an illness earlier this year, just a few days after his home went into foreclosure.

Why are you here?

“The American people would like a piece of the pie. They’ve had enough … (of) the rampant greed,” said Elizabeth Carbone, 64.

What do you want?

“Bring home all the troops” and “remove the tax-exempt status from … every house of worship,” Elizabeth Carbone said.

What do you hope that this movement becomes?

Elizabeth Carbone wants leaders who “represent the people. Not the 1 percent, but the people, the real people: the oil in the wheel, the ones who work and toil every day.”

What do you say to critics of the movement?

“I would tell them that they are simply unconscious. … there’s 2 percent of the wealth left for 98 percent of the population to scramble over, okay, and that’s what they’re doing, scrambling.” 

How long will you be here?

“As long as the young people and this movement need our support, we’ll be here. We can’t do what they’re doing, they’re young. We did that before. But we’re here, to give them support, to [let them] know that we’re behind them,” said Dennis Carbone, 69. 

John Makely / msnbc.com

Jim Weatherby, 50, from New Briton, Conn., waits in Zucotti Park in New York for the Occupy Wall Street march to start on Oct. 5.


Jim Weatherby, a 50-year-old father of three adult children from New Britain, Conn., is a state employee who works with adolescent and juvenile delinquent males. His wife is a teacher, and he said they are a middle class family struggling to make ends meet. They can’t save money, he said, noting that their biggest problem is that they can’t get out from credit card debt. He took a day off work to travel to the Occupy Wall Street site.

Why did you come here?

“The excesses of Wall Street, the economic collapse that happened under George W. Bush that led to the TARP bailout, two grossly mismanaged and unnecessary wars have led to the economic situation in this country and I think it’s time that the rich paid their fair share.”

What do you want?

“The Bush tax rates … should have been rolled back or done away with the last time it came up.”

What do you hope this protest becomes?

“I hope it calls attention to the problem and that our lawmakers hear us and see that we are – like the signs say – we are the 99 percent. The country is being run backwards; we’re serving the 1 percent,” he said, adding that he hoped it would make an impact on the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, galvanizing the middle and working classes.

What do you say to critics of this movement?

“They’re not listening. They don’t get it. They don’t understand that all we want is a fair opportunity to work, all we want is a fair tax structure that doesn’t favor the wealthy.”