Wall Street protests spread

Protests against the perceived excesses of Wall Street spread farther Tuesday, with events in new cities as the populist groundswell enters its 18th day.

Protests against the perceived excesses of Wall Street spread farther Tuesday, with events in new cities as the populist groundswell enters its 18th day.

On Monday, hundreds dressed as zombies and lurched past the New York Stock Exchange clutching fistfuls of fake money. In Chicago, demonstrators pounded drums in the city's financial district.

Others pitched tents or waved protest signs at passing cars in Boston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., and Los Angeles.

Downtown Boston saw hundreds of demonstrators march from a tent city on a grassy plot in downtown towards the Statehouse, callling for an end of corporate influence of government.

In Chicago, protesters beat drums on the corner near the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. In Los Angeles, demonstrators hoping to get TV coverage gathered in front of the courthouse where Michael Jackson's doctor is on trial on manslaughter charges.

The movement started two weeks ago with fewer than a dozen college students spending days and nights in Zuccotti Park, a plaza near New York’s financial center. But it has grown ever since. More than 700 people were arrested over the weekend during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Protesters march in support of the New York Occupy Wall Street rally in Los Angeles. The populist movement remains small, but has spread from its beginnings. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

"We feel the power in Washington has actually been compromised by Wall Street," said Jason Counts, a computer systems analyst and one of about three dozen protesters in St. Louis. "We want a voice, and our voice has slowly been degraded over time."

New York City bus drivers sued the New York Police Department on Monday for commandeering their buses and making them drive to the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday to pick up detained protesters.

"We're down with these protesters. We support the notion that rich folk are not paying their fair share," said Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen. "Our bus operators are not going to be pressed into service to arrest protesters anywhere."

Canadian protests planned

Protests are planned in Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. On October 15th, a group plans on staging a sit-in in Toronto’s financial district. Chatter on social media suggests a similar event is planned for Vancouver’s financial district on the same day.

Thus far, there is little cohesion among the protesters, beyond a broad desire to redistribute wealth along more equitable lines.

"Wall Street, I think, is the epitome of corruption and greed and an unfair economic system," said Marc Lee, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

A manifesto was issued over the weekend, but it contained little in the way of concrete demands or actionable changes.

"This is the last resort of democracy, this is sort of a legitimate democratic protest. I don't know what the ask ultimately is, but people would probably be satisfied by some prosecution of the outright frauds that were committed during the housing bubble," Lee said.

'This is the last resort of democracy, this is sort of a legitimate democratic protest'—Marc Lee, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Some have expressed support for the movement in general, but say it’s misguided. Roland Klingman, who works in New York’s financial industry and was wearing a suit as he walked through a raucous crowd of protesters, said he could sympathize with the anti-Wall Street message.

"I don't think it's directed personally at everyone who works down here," Klingman said. "If they believe everyone down here contributes to policy decisions, it's a serious misunderstanding."

Others agree there are some mixed messages being conveyed.

"There is a line here and I don't know anyone who's not disgusted by that, but you don't want to confuse what's going on with Wall Street with what's going on in the real economy," said Laura Jones, vice-president of research at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

"As Joe Lieberman once said, you can't be pro-job and anti business. And I think there's some anti-business sentiment in this," she said.

The protests have been peaceful thus far. And FBI spokesman Tim Flannelly said he does not expect the New York protests to develop into the often-violent demonstrations that have rocked cities in the United Kingdom since the summer. But he said the FBI is "monitoring the situation and will respond accordingly."

With files from The Associated Press