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Who Are the '99 Percent'?

 
Anti-Wall Street protesters have differing motivations

Hundreds of people descended on downtown San Francisco Thursday to support the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations that are going on in New York. The tagline for the protest is "We Are the 99 Percent," and here's how they describe themselves:

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.

We wondered who were the "99 percent" protesting on the streets on Thursday and why they were demonstrating. Here's a random sampling.

 

Charlene Woodcock

Charlene Woodcock, 71, retired book editor

QK: Why are you out here?

CW: I’ve seen the wealth of this country – and especially California – go from the middle class to the very rich. It’s destroying California, it’s destroying our schools. The Republicans are doing their best to privatize everything they can and it’s destroying the country.

QK: What do you want these protests to accomplish?

CW: A state bank. North Dakota has a state bank that isn’t doing it for profit.

QK: What do you have against Wall Street?

CW: They broke laws, they made a mockery of process of granting loans to enrich themselves in the short term and they didn’t give a damn about the long term.

 

Mary Ann Meany

Mary Ann Meany, 60, lawyer

QK: Why are you out here?

MAM: I’m out here because the program I work for has been cut, my court has been cut, every social service in California is being cut and I think it’s time that we all recognize that there’s a social contract that we have to support. I work in juevenile court – employees, commissioners, court reporters have been cut.

QK: Do you blame Wall Street for those cuts?

MAM: We use Wall Street as a symbol and a signal of whether the economy is good or not. I don’t think it’s the right indicator. We think the economy is doing well because Wall Street is doing well but we still have high unemployment and people aren’t willing to pay taxes and things seem to be breaking down.

 

Larry Yee

Larry Yee, over 50, service technician

QK: Why are you out here?

LY: I'm a member of CWA 9410. I’m here in support of our brothers and sisters asking for fair jobs and making sure the banks don’t just walk away after the disaster they caused in the financial market. We all need to speak up and make sure our voices are heard.

 

Evelyn Sanchez

Evelyn Sanchez, 35, community organizer

QK: Why are you marching out here?

ES: I’m very much in touch with families that have been affected by this crises. Both immigrants who have been cut off from services as well as families who are facing budget cuts in their school system.

QK: What does Wall Steet have to do with those cuts?

ES: A lot of our laws and policies are designed to favor them – their health and their well-being and not enough is being done for us, the people, who are on the street. I’m happy to see there are so many people here who are sick and tired of the agenda of our politicians and that's doing what’s best for corporations and the financial sector. It’s about time they pay attention to the needs of the people.

 

Karen Henry

Karen Henry, 50, runs clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies

QK: Why are you out demonstrating?

KH: I came out here because I am fed up with supporting corporate America. There’s a much bigger gap between the rich and the poor. And we gave all our money to the banks and we don’t have anything left. This morning I was going to work and I heard Bank of America is going to charge $5 for debit transactions – that’s friggin’ ridiculous! It goes into some stockholders pocket while it gets eaten out of ours. I heard about the demonstration today and decided to come. I left work early and decided to come.

 

Chris Tully

Chris Tully, 36, unemployed

QK: Why are you out here?

CT: To support the 99%. To support Occupy Wall Street. They’re out there for us. I’m against corprorate greed and I want to see a higher employment rate and banks should pay.

QK: Why should the banks pay?

CT: They’re the ones that benefited the most from all of us in the bailouts and their still making massive profits. They continue to do so.

QK: What do you hope will come out of these protests?

CT: I’m hoping to see a stronger sense of community and be more organized. Everyone tends to walk around thinking they can’t make a difference and we’re out here to show them we can.

 

Ulises Olvera

Ulises Olvera, 19, student at San Francisco State University

QK: Why are you out here?

UO: To stand in solidarity with all the workers and see if we can make some change.

QK: What kind of change do you want these protests to make?

UO: Drastic change

QK: Like what?

UO: Like the way the tax dollars are collected. Who gets taxed and the amount of taxes we impose on people who have money and people who don’t have money. I come from a working class family and in the last five years, they have been struggling just to make rent and it’s been really tough. I’m from San Deigo and a lot of my friends, their parents are agricultural workers, and it’s been hard on them too. They’ve lost jobs in the last couple of years.

QK: How is Wall Street responsible for that?

UO: They hold all the wealth and they get preference on how money is disbursed and they’re pretty much in control of everybody else. So whoever has the money has the power and that’s how they control.

 

Darnell Boyd

Darnell Boyd, 50, tenant organizer for SRO Hotels
Boyd lives at the Mission Hotel and he helps organize tenants.

QK: Why are you out here?

DO: We need the rich to pay more taxes. And we need them to not cut aid and medicare.

QK: What does Wall Street have to do with that?

DO: I think they’re [rich] Wall Street. They need to pay their fair share.

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