Wall Street protesters stage rallies in NJ

October 6, 2011 4:50:19 PM PDT
Protesters representing a wide array of ages and causes brought the "Occupy Wall Street" movement across the Hudson River Thursday, staging demonstrations in Trenton and Jersey City.

The protests, loosely organized around themes of economic inequality and corporate greed, have been gaining momentum across the country since starting last month with a handful of protesters outside the New York Stock Exchange.

In New Jersey, about 75 people linked arms in front of the Goldman Sachs building in downtown Jersey City around 2 p.m. Thursday, as workers in suits and ties peered down at protesters chanting; "This is what democracy looks like!" and "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Goldman Sachs has got to go!"

Protester Pat Meany, clad head-to-toe in psychedelically painted clothing and a jacket hand-lettered with the words "If it says `Made in America' it must be an antique," rode his vintage Schwinn bicycle to Jersey City from his home in Hackensack.

"I'm hoping Obama will use this momentum to pass the jobs bill and raise taxes on the rich," said Meany. At 53, he said it was near-impossible to find steady work anymore, and likened the odd jobs he's able to find to those of a foreign day laborer.

"I do every job under the sun, because that's how you survive," he said. "I'm not waiting for no $25,000 a year job to come back again, because my best working years are behind me, and in the working world, 50 is the new 65."

In Trenton, about 50 protesters had set up camp at a World War II memorial across from the state Capitol on Thursday afternoon.

Some brought sleeping bags and planned to remain overnight.

"This is Democracy in action," said protester Tim O'Neall of Collingswood, who identified himself as a Vietnam veteran and frequent protester. "This will grow. This is only the beginning," he said.

Others waved signs such as "Greed Kills," and "Heal America: Tax Wall Street" at passing cars, cheering when drivers honked in support.

Although demonstrators in Jersey City were largely outnumbered by police and members of the media, the boisterous crowd marched along the waterfront promenade chanting "We are the 99 percent," in reference to the concept that 1 percent of the population controls the majority of the nation's wealth.

The phrase resonated with Lynn Levin, a realtor from Bayonne who was urged by a friend to check out the Jersey City event after she had seen the protests in lower Manhattan. Describing herself as a "regular person," Levin said she joined the march out of concern for her sons' futures. Both recent college grads in their 20's, Levin said her boys had been unable to find good jobs in their chosen fields.

"This is not America, I just don't think this is democracy," Levin said. "This is the economy we're living in: everyone out of jobs, or kids coming out of school who were promised jobs and they're saddled with debt and school loans. That's why I'm out here, for my kids."

Jersey City police officials said they were prepared for the protests, and there were no incidents reported at either march.

Related demonstrations have been happening across the country, including ongoing protests in New York, where 23 people were arrested Wednesday night during a march of several thousand people.

About 700 had been arrested during a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge over the weekend.

They have grown in size to the point of catching the attention of President Barack Obama, who acknowledged the movement during a press conference Thursday, saying the demonstrators were expressing the frustrations of the American public.