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‘Occupy Wall Street’ and ‘99 Percent’ movements gain steam, supporters as protests grow

From humble beginnings, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and affiliated “99 Percent” group have sparked a protest movement that has spread to many major cities in the U.S. and has gained support from labor unions and celebrities, among others. As Elizabeth Flock reported:

When a few dozen people began protesting on Wall Street on August 17 to voice their frustration with America’s “corrupt democratic processes,” it struck a nerve with Americans across the country who were fed up with the state of the economy, the government, and their own lives.

There was little those outside of New York could do to support the protests but watch, until six days later, when a Tumblr blog called We Are The 99 Percent sprung up online.

“The 99 percent have been set against each other, fighting over the crumbs the 1 percent leaves behind... Be part of the 99 percent and let the 1 percent know you’re out there,” the site wrote, asking people to submit photos of themselves holding handwritten signs that told their stories about the American dream gone wrong.

Within days, dozens had submitted signs such as: “Married. Two children. Laid off. Hubby laid off. Florida unemployment pays $250.00 a week. Bank of America wants our house! No health care. No retirement. Babylon is falling. I am the 99 percent.”

And at the bottom of nearly every sign, in small print, a scrawled phrase: “Occupy Wall Street.”

These people weren’t on Wall Street, but they hoped their voices could still be heard.

“It’s not that 99 percent of Americans want a revolution,” Ezra Klein wrote Tuesday. “It’s that 99 percent of Americans sense that the fundamental bargain of our economy -- work hard, play by the rules, get ahead -- has been broken, and they want to see it restored.”

In Washington, D.C., the “Occupy DC” movement has begun to take on its own distinct identity. Hundreds gathering in Freedom Plaza on Thursday to protest, at an event organized by October 2011 and joined by Occupy DC. As Annie Gowen explained:

A couple of hundred social justice protesters launched an “occupation” of Freedom Plaza Thursday, the area’s first major demonstration against rising inequality since the Occupy Wall Street movement began last month in New York and spread around the country.

Decrying corporate greed, ineffective political leaders and a rising gap between the haves and the have nots in the United States, protesters unfurled sleeping bags and raised tents in the public plaza in the shadow of the White House, vowing to stay indefinitely — or until their voices are heard. They only have official U.S. Park Service permits through Sunday

“This is what needs to be done to get our voices heard. Congress is not listening,” said Matthew Mascolino, 23, who flew in from suburban Chicago to protest. “I’ve been looking for a job for a year and there’s nothing.”

Around him, demonstrators beat drums, spread bubbles through the air and carried signs that said “Tax the Rich.” Mascolino carried a sign supporting the “99 Percent” — a slam against the top 1 percent of earners in the United States who take home a quarter of the income.

Several labor groups have declared support for the “Occupy” movement, and as Sarah Anne Hughes reported, several celebrities have added their voices:

Occupy Wall Street has gained two new celebrity supporters, as the protests continue for the 20th day in New York City.

“Gossip Girl” actor Penn Badgley was spotted by a Gawker tipster Wednesday marching with demonstrators to City Hall and holding a sign that said, “Bring Back the Glass-Stegall Act!! No to Corporate Greed!”

The actor told Capital NY that he came to the protests after a friend was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge “I mean, listen, it’s cheesy ... but I want to do whatever I can,” he said of his participation. “Let’s be honest: I’m on [expletive] ‘Gossip Girl.’ So, why not try and ... right? It’s absurd that celebrity power is what it is, but, like, use any tool you have, you know?”

Perhaps following the lead of his former partner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins stopped by the protests Wednesday. He told the Financial Times (via People), “This is what an actual grassroots movement looks like. ... It’s a bit sloppy and disorganized but full of passion.”

More from The Washington Post

Opinion: Rescuing American from Wall Street

Who are the 99 percent?

Russ Feingold endorses Occupy Wall Street

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