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Taking it to the streets: Meet the Occupy Seattle protesters

By Sevil Omer, senior writer for msnbc.com

Msnbc.com visited the Occupy Seattle demonstration at Westlake Park in Seattle this week. Here are some of the people we met.

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Albert Postema of Snohomish, Wash., protests as part of Occupy Seattle in Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

Albert Postema, 46, of Snohomish, Wash.
Postema dressed up in a crisp white shirt, gray suit and gray shoes, finishing off his wardrobe by tying a noose around his neck and taping a $1 bill to his mouth. The small-business owner raised his sign up high. It read: "End Economic Terrorism."

Throughout the day on Thursday, the western Washington father made his stand in front of Bank of America in downtown Seattle and joined scores of others to protest what they call corporate corruption and economic injustice to Americans. Postema serves as Occupy Seattle’s police liaison; his job is to make sure cops and protesters get along at Westlake Park. Even with cash taped to his mouth, Postema refused to remain silent.

Why are you here?
"Because of the collective economic noose around our necks and that our system is corrupt and we don't have a voice anymore."

What's your specific grievance?
"We are not headed in the right direction and we are losing our voice. I have more money than a lot of people in this country and I don't have a say in what happens, but corporations do. Corporations have a voice. We have lost our rights as well."

Do you think this movement could grow?
"Dang, yeah. We see it every day and it is growing exponentially. A lot of people don't even know that it's happening, and they are not even here yet."

What would make you think “mission accomplished”?
"Constitutional courts. ... I don't trust politicians anymore. Since our country is based on separation of church and state, it also should be based on separation of money and state. We also need to have a voice in the system again. There is a lot of money working against us."

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

"I'll come down here every day if I have to," says Steve Smith, left, with his friend Candra Kolodziej, both of Seattle. Smith and Kolodziej were supporting the anti-Wall Street 'Occupy Seattle' rally in Westlake Park in downtown Seattle, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

Candra Kolodziej, 29, and Steve Smith, 34, of Seattle
Kolodziej scanned the crowd Thursday. She said numbers were down compared to Wednesday’s gathering, when 25 people were arrested for refusing police orders to take their tents down. But she said the busts and uncertainty that night only added to her resolve to demonstrate against what she believed was a yawning gap between haves and have-nots. A bookseller with The Elliot Bay Book Company, she said her future was filled with debt and a growing despair about economic security.

Her boyfriend, Smith, wore sunglasses, a hoodie and a “Reboot America” button. A wiry, bearded and reflective man, he sat on a sleeping bag with a half-eaten cheese bagel. He said he was reluctant to share personal ideals, but he expressed sadness in the increasing numbers of Americans forced out their homes and jobs, while banks and financial institutions receive bailouts. The coffee shop staffer said he wanted to be part of something different and meaningful and jumped at the chance to join Kolodziej on the protest line.

What keeps you here?
Kolodziej: "Ever since Saturday, I haven't felt that anything else I've been doing has been as important as this. This is absolutely it. This is a small gathering now in Seattle, but I think it is going to be a global movement that's of the utmost importance to my future and everyone else's."

Smith: "Other people."

How long will you stay here?
Kolodziej: "I will stay here until I have to return to work, which is 3 p.m. on Saturday. After that, I will be heading back down here to do my part."

Smith: "Every day, if I have to. I work down here, so I will come and hang out as long as necessary."

What would be mission accomplished?
Kolodziej: "Tax reform, corporate reform and government reform. Ultimately, it would be closing the widening gap between the wealthiest and those who are impoverished."

Smith: "Communication. ... People looking at each other, connecting and communicating that you exist, I exist and we share all of this."

What do you think this movement could become?
Kolodziej: "This will become a revolution."

Smith: "I have no idea, because not everyone is going to be happy. … I want people to speak up and say 'this is ours.'"

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Gabriel Plummer of Seattle plans to stay indefinitely at Westlake Park in Seattle to support Occupy Seattle.

Gabriel Plummer, 20, of Seattle, a journalism student
Born and raised in western Washington, Plummer joined the protests Thursday morning. As he rolled a cigarette for himself, a friend unrolled a sleeping bag for him nearby. It was Plummer's first night out on pavement, but he planned to stay indefinitely.

Why are you here?
"I wanted to witness history and be part of something that is bigger than myself. I wanted to watch a community come together and be part of a reawakening."

What's your grievance?
"My grievance is that I'm tired of corporations being treated like gods, we being treated like slaves and our ignorance being perpetuated by the media."

Do you think the movement could grow?
"It has steadily grown for decades. The frustration has reached a pivotal point and it will keep growing."

What would make you think mission accomplished?
"The beautiful thing is for a community to come together and figure out it together."

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Toriy Fair of Seattle makes a sign in support of the Occupy Seattle rally.

Toriy Fair, 21, of Seattle, college student studying culinary arts. This chatty, energetic woman with green eyes and a ready smile described hardships of her childhood, her years in and out of shelters, and days and nights out on the streets looking for food and place to stay. She said she wanted to stand up on behalf of people who were unable to, and made a temporary home at the park.

What keeps you here?
"The system."

How long will you stay here?
"I will be here as long as I can, until my classes start. When my classes are over, I will be back right here."

What would be mission accomplished?
"It will be the day when I see my friend and people whose lives are so messed up and their minds so screwed up be able to get the proper help they need so they can get off the streets."

What do you say to critics about this movement?
"First of all, if you are criticizing us and wondering what we are doing here, then you have not been plugged into what has been happening to our country. I believe my generation is going to pay the biggest price for all of this mess.

What do you think this movement could become?
"A lighthouse of hope for all those who feel lost."

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Brian Fnord of Everett, Wash. brought his 9-month-old son, Jackson, to the rally at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

Brian Fnord, 29, of Everett, Wash., a janitor
Fnord came across the protest by chance on Saturday and decided to spend the night. Ever since, he has made his way down to Seattle to participate. On Thursday, he bundled up the biggest reason for his political trek south: his 9-month-old son, Jackson.

Why are you here?
“I'm here mostly for my son and how we're shoving all of this debt onto the next generation and onto my son. What we are seeing is the effects of a depression and the lack of capital."

What's your specific grievance?
"The Federal (Reserve) chairman kind of screwed up with the bailouts. I think he should resign. He was the one who was cutting the checks when this was happening."

Do you think this movement could grow?
Anytime you have people who are willing to spend an evening outside in the cold is a good sign that yes, it could grow. This is a movement that is not backed by a CEO pet project."

What would make you think mission accomplished?
"That is a difficult question, because in everything you have goals and you can't ever really be done with something. Even in Egypt where (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak stepped down, you were left with issues with the army and such. ... I believe it is time for the people to start the process for democracy and we need to start moving forward."

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Carol Spane, 70, of Hood River, Ore. (left) and Patricia Barclay, 86, of Seattle show their support for Occupy Seattle and for ending the war in Afghanistan.

Carol Spane, 70, of Hood River, Ore., a caregiver and foster parent
Spane and Patricia Barclay, 86, of West Seattle, made their way through the crowd of nearly 150 people before they decided to take a brief break from demonstrating. Spane, who is Barclay's caregiver, lovingly linked her arm around the older woman's arm and guided her to a picnic table. Spane talked about her efforts to raise awareness about the financial hardships faced by millions of families nationwide.

Why are you here?
"I'm tired of watching people work so hard to get ahead and not being able to. It's hard nowadays for families and it's a struggle."

Do you think this movement could grow?
"Protests are important and people need to stand up for what they believe in — even if they are as old as we are."

What would make this mission accomplished?
"To give our president a chance to act on the stuff he wants to do."

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