But What Do They Want?

In which our reporter joins Wall Street's new occupants

Photo: David Shankbone

The media’s portrayals of the quickly spreading Occupy Wall Street movement have been inconsistent—and sometimes outright contradictory. Depending on who’s reporting, the attendees are disgruntled radicals, a dangerous mob, anti-American, pro-American, savvy, well-educated, organized, chaotic, shiftless youth, aging hippies, socialists, anarchists, libertarians, peaceful, violent. Depending on whom you listen to, their movement is powerful or quixotic or misguided or the great protest movement of our time. Especially in the early days of the movement, journalists kept insisting that the protesters provide a list of concrete policy demands, so that they could report exactly what the fuss was all about. The protesters steadfastly refused to offer one, insisting that their movement is not a political party and does not have a platform. What exactly is happening in Zuccotti Park?

One reason it’s been hard to sum up Occupy Wall Street is that in fact a variety of motives has brought people there. This movement is nothing if not diverse. Almost every one of the photos I took at the ten-thousand-strong October 5 march turned out to have...

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About the Author

Christine Neulieb is a former Commonweal editorial assistant.