New York City has a long history of public dissent. But the sheer cost of setting up shop in New York, whether you're a struggling artist or a major retailer, has made it increasingly difficult to maintain a profile in the city.

The same can be said for protesting.

The last significant public protest in New York would have been the pre-Iraq War demonstration in February 2003. If the aim of the 100,000 people on Manhattan's streets that day was to stop the invasion, it was a failure.

Now, world media is evaluating another public demonstration from the left.

Entering its fourth week, and spreading to dozens of other American cities, the Occupy Wall Street protests are being praised and slammed in equal measure.

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An Occupy Wall Street protestor marching up Broadway on Oct. 5, 2011.

Next weekend they debut in a handful of Canadian cities, which is perhaps only fitting, as the protests in New York grew out of an exhortation from the Vancouver-based publication Adbusters.

Back in July, the anti-consumerist periodical called for a protest where "20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street for a few months."

That is pretty much what's happened, although the numbers seem to vary considerably from day to day and those camping overnight in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park are reported to be in the hundreds.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama appeared sympathetic, at least to the broad theme of the protest, when he declared, "I think the American people understand that not everybody's been following the rules, and that Wall Street is an example of that."

Obama is pushing a jobs bill right now and counting on popular support to raise taxes on the rich.

Republican commentators note the president cashed in on Wall Street donations in 2008. But it's different this year. The hedge fund Third Point LLC, one of Obama's biggest supporters in 2008, has given Democrats only $8,000 in 2011.

 As the Wall Street Journal remarked, hedge fund kings have feelings, too, and the president appears to have hurt them.

For and against

In the world media the Occupy Wall Street protests are producing a sharp divide in opinion. Among the critics:

Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives. "I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country. Believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans."

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The Occupy Wall Street protests have been described as "Flash Mob Politics" and their roots can be traced to Adbusters magazine's simple message: "Occupy Wall Street. Sept 17. Bring tent."

Hear more from Wired editor Bill Wasik on Day Six with Brent Bambury. (Runs 9 min.)

Kevin O'Leary, CBC commentator and investor. "It looks pretty nothingburger so far, just a few guys, guitars. Nobody knows what they want. Can't even name the names of the firms that they're protesting against. Very weak. Low budget. "

Then there are the intrigued:

Jonathan Chait, columnist with New York magazine. "The protests, for all this incoherence, restore Wall Street to a central place in the economic narrative. Here is the financial industry, not just as recipient of taxpayer funds but as originator and aggravator of the crisis. The protests may not have an agenda, but they do not need an agenda other than to return political focus onto Wall Street."

Matt Taibbi, the political writer with Rolling Stone magazine. "What this could do is provide the political support for those activists who are trying to change specific things about how Wall Street operates. Obviously this isn't a crowd that understands for instance how the derivatives market works but there's enough anger out there that people who are trying to change the derivatives market could point at and say 'Look, there are protests out there. We need to do something because the public won't take it anymore.'"

When the demonstrators come to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal next weekend they will likely face the same chorus of cheers and jeers.

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Does Bay Street deserve the same kind of anger as Wall Street? Listen to the Day Six debate. (Runs 7:33)

In Toronto, they will also be marching in the shadow of the last major protest that snaked through the downtown, the G20 demonstrations of 2010, a paroxysm of arrests and detentions that challenged the credibility of police and security.

This week on CBC Radio's Day Six, a Toronto financier had a question for the Canadian demonstrators: How can Canada's financial establishment be judged culpable for the recession to the degree that American demonstrators blame Wall Street, home of the toxic sub-prime mortgage? Why make Bay Street a target?

Still, the Occupy Wall Street activists appear determined to continue their open-ended protest. Will the same tolerance of dissent be extended to their Canadian counterparts?

In other words, will this last longer than a weekend, or will it all play out on a sleepy October Saturday in Toronto? When Bay Street is usually abandoned, save perhaps for the odd tourist trying to find the Hockey Hall of Fame.