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Entries in Occupy Wall Street (38)

Thursday
Nov032011

Student Loan Debt Up for Class of 2010

Jupiterimages/ComstockTwo-thirds of all college students now graduate with debt -- and the amount they accumulate to pay for their education keeps growing by the year.

According to a new report by The Project on Student Debt, the average senior with student loans is graduating with $25,250 in debt, up five percent since the prior year.

The subject has recently come to the forefront because of the protesters of Occupy Wall Street, who have come together in cities across the country and abroad to shed light on the problems of the so-called "99 percent."

They not only protest on the streets, but have formed coalitions on Facebook,Twitter and Tumblr -- most recently forming Occupy Student Debt, a page dedicated to people sharing their stories about struggling with student loan debt.

While many are struggling to repay their loans, the class of 2010 may have a harder time. Reports show that they are facing the highest unemployment rate for new college graduates in recent history at 9.1 percent. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for people under 30 is at 13 percent.

The amount of debt not only seems to vary school to school, but also from region to region. The report shows that students in the Northeast and Midwest tend to have more student loan debt than people living in the West. New Hampshire was the state with the highest average debt level at $31,048 per student, followed by Maine and Iowa. Utah and Hawaii were the states with the lowest debt average at $15,509 and $15,550.

According to the report, the disparity may be attributed to fact that a larger group of students attend private, nonprofit, four-year colleges, which tend to be more expensive, while those in the West have a bigger share of students attending public schools.

The report also listed colleges that specifically have students with higher-than-average student loan debt. The private nonprofit colleges, including California Institute of the Arts, Florida Institute of Technology and New York University, all have an average debt from $40,400 to $55,250.

The high-debt public colleges, like University of New Hampshire-Main Campus, Alabama State University and Temple University, all have an average of $29,800 to $45,350.

Private, for-profit colleges were not included on either list because so few of them report the relevant debt data needed to be listed, and generally don't respond to the survey that The Project on Student Debt uses to compile data. The most recent national data, however, shows that 96 percent of graduates from those schools took out loans and borrowed 45 percent more than graduates from other four-year colleges.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct302011

Cops Clash with Occupy Protesters in Denver and Portland 

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Tensions between the Wall Street Occupy protesters and police boiled over in Denver this weekend as demonstrators in Portland, Ore., defied city officials by taking their march to one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

The Occupy protests have been going on for several weeks around the country, and in some cities, the movement has turned into a sort of stand-off between authorities and demonstrators who have been camping out in public places like civic centers and city parks.

Many of the protesters have vowed to remain where they are, ignoring curfews and sleeping in tents—an act that has already resulted in hundreds of arrests across the country.

The latest arrests came early Sunday morning in Portland, Ore., where protesters remained in a park in the affluent Pearl District past the midnight curfew, after city officials warned them not to expand their encampments beyond the parks they had already occupied.

March organizer Cameron Whitten told ABC affiliate KATU-TV in Portland that the neighborhood was chosen "to bring awareness to the inequality of wealth within our very city and to be in solidarity with other occupations and people in Portland and nationally who have been the target of police brutality."

Demonstrators have been occupying two other parks in the city without conflict with the police. But Mayor Sam Adams said last week he would not allow them to take over any more parks, especially not in residential neighborhoods like the one in the affluent Pearl District where the protesters were arrested Sunday.

In Denver, about 20 people were arrested Saturday, following the most violent clashes yet between police and protesters in the city. About 2,000 marchers approached the state capitol building Saturday afternoon, and a small group attempted to advance up the building's steps.

About eight officers scuffled with group, and police said they had to use pepper spray and pepper balls to break up the crowd. Protesters said police took their actions too far.

"They are definitely slap happy with their weapons. They have no qualms about using it on a peaceful bunch of people and I think that's a shame," one woman involved in the protest told ABC News Radio.

Denver Police Lt. Matt Murray said officers did not want to use force, but the demonstrators gave them no choice.

"We respect their constitutional rights to do what they're doing," he said. "Unfortunately at a certain point they went up on to the State Capitol grounds, in an area that they were told to evacuate, they chose not to do that, we at that point had to step in with the state police in order to push them back off that property."

The clash between police and demonstrators resulted in five arrests, and some people received medical treatment on the scene, Murray said.

Later in the evening, police in riot gear arrested 15 more people who ignored orders to leave an encampment of 10 to 20 tents in a downtown park.

So far on Sunday, Denver's Civic Center park is calm. About 100 people slept overnight in the park, although not in tents, after Denver police ordered demonstrators to take them all down Saturday.

Occupy Nashville is in its fourth day of protest, after three consecutive nights squaring off against local police. Despite the cold, demonstrators near Tennessee's capitol building defied a curfew for the third time. By early morning, about 50 people remained, and despite friction with state officials, no one was arrested, unlike during the previous two nights of protest.

Although more than two dozen people have been taken into custody in Nashville so far, not all local officials are on board with the arrests.

A Nashville judge said last week that there's no legal reason to keep the demonstrators behind bars. He has released protesters after every arrest and has refused each night to sign arrest warrants for those taken into custody. The state Department of Safety has been carrying out the arrests.

The Occupy Wall Street protests spread internationally about three weeks ago after starting in New York City's Zucotti Park on Sept. 17.

This weekend, some of them faced a new challenge: bad weather. Record snowfall along the East Coast forced some inside, although others, including in New York City, remained outside with tents and blankets. Occupy Maine made a plea on its Facebook page for reinforcements after the snowfall destroyed many of the group's tents. They point out that this is a good time to start talking about the logistics of occupation, before snowfall becomes a nightly occurrence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct282011

'Occupy' Protesters March to Bank Offices; Generators Taken Away

Susanna Kim/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A group of Occupy Wall Street protesters coordinated a march in mid-town Manhattan Friday, delivering 6,000 “angry letters” to five major banks.

Before the march, the group, Occupy the Board Room, invited people to submit letters online to Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

Friday, the group delivered printed letters to the doors of the bank headquarters.

In front of the Bank of America headquarters and a line of security guards, dozens of protesters folded the letters into paper airplanes, then voluntarily picked them up.

In front of the Morgan Stanley headquarters, protesters prepared a singing telegram with the words, “I live pay check to pay check and find it hard to pay rent. I am not writing to offend or attack. I simply want to share my struggles.”

Earlier, just as the weather in New York City has dropped to unseasonably low temperatures for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) announced that it removed six generators and 13 fuel containers during a coordinated inspection Friday in Zuccotti Park.

The FDNY released a statement about the inspection in the park, known to the protesters as Liberty Square, where they have camped since Sept. 17. The occupants were “cooperative” during the 30 minute inspection, the fire department said.

“This action was taken to address the dangerous conditions posed by the presence and/or use of flammable and combustible liquids and portable generators in a public space, which is prohibited under New York City law,” the statement said.

The weather in New York City is expected to drop to the low 30s this weekend, with possible rain, wind and snow.

But the Fire Department said no one will be permitted to bring portable generators or flammable liquids into the park, and it will continue to monitor conditions at the park “to ensure public safety is maintained with regard to fire and life safety.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct262011

Elizabeth Warren Takes Intellectual Credit for Occupy Wall Street

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Many politicians have been wary to identify with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, but Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren takes credit for planting the intellectual seeds that spawned the movement.

“I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do,” said Warren in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I support what they do.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement started Sept. 17 -- at least according to occupywallstreet.org -- and despite massive turnout, the movement didn’t receive much media attention until weeks later.  Protests have since spread from multiple cities across the U.S. to cities as far away as Tokyo.

While Warren might claim credit for sowing the initial seeds, the Occupy Wall Street website says the movement drew inspiration from the Arab Spring movement in Egypt and Tunisia.

“Elizabeth was making the point that she has been protesting Wall Street’s practices and policies for years -- and working to change them,” said a spokesman for the Warren campaign in a statement intended to clarify. “Wall Street’s tricks brought our economy to the edge of collapse, and there hasn’t been any real accountability. She understands why people are so angry and why they are taking their fight to the street. She has said repeatedly everyone has to abide by the law. Elizabeth is working for change in a different way, to take this fight to the United States Senate.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct252011

Occupy Wall Street Struggles with Redistributing Its Own Wealth

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the Occupy Wall Street movement expands, protest organizers -- many of whom support wealth redistribution -- are struggling with distributing the $500,000 in donations they have received. As the saying goes, money changes everything, and apparently it's causing infighting in the group.

Pete Dutro, a member of the Occupy Wall Street finance committee, dismissed reports that squabbling was growing as to who gets to collect.

"Finances are always a flash point for a lot of organizations," Dutro, 36, said.

The New York Post reported groups of protesters were upset for having to fill out paperwork to access funds, such as money to reimburse drums that had been vandalized one late night.

"There are people who don't want to follow the process and there's not a whole lot I can do for them," Dutro said.  "How is that going to be accountable?"

About 8,000 individual donors have given on average about $50 each, Dutro said.  Earlier this month, the Occupy Wall Street account was temporarily frozen due to a human error, losing $144,000 in online donations.

Occupy Wall Street had raised about $500,000 and as of Monday have $416,000 according to the bank balance sheet, Dutro said.  He said the majority of expenses are food, and next are clothing, medical expenses and credit card fees from processing the online donations.

The protests, which originally began on Sept. 17, have spread across the country, with people camped out in San Francisco and Chicago, among other cities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct232011

‘Occupy’ Protesters Force St. Paul’s Cathedral to Close

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- St. Paul’s Cathedral is losing a significant chunk of money each day after shutting down due to health and safety concerns posed by Occupy London protesters, who have set up a tent city on the lawn on the famous landmark.

An estimated 1.9 million people visit the cathedral each year, bringing in approximately $25,000 in revenue per day, according to The Guardian.

The cathedral receives very little funding from the state and relies heavily on ticket revenue.

Graeme Knowles, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, pleaded with protesters to leave the grounds of the landmark, which is a huge draw to tourists from around the world.

“I am asking the protestors to recognize the huge issues facing us at this time and asking them to leave the vicinity of the building so that the Cathedral can re-open as soon as possible,” he said in an open letter posted on the St. Paul’s website.

But demonstrators said Sunday that they’re in it for the long haul. Some said they expected to continue their demonstration through Christmas, while others said they hoped to stay outside the cathedral until the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“I’ll be here next summer if that’s what it takes to change the system,” protester David Harris, 36, told The Guardian.

This is the first time St. Paul’s Cathedral has been closed since World War II.

ABCNews.com’s calls to Occupy London were not immediately returned, but a statement on the group’s site said they were committed to working with St. Paul’s to rectify any concerns.

“Our intention was to highlight the iniquities of the global economic crisis, in a peaceful manner, especially as the Cathedral has been so hospitable,” the group wrote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct232011

Occupy Wall Street Protests on GE CEO’s Lawn

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW CANAAN, Conn.) -- A crowd of 100 protesters, some from New York City’s Occupy Wall Street movement and others from Occupy New Haven, came together in a show of solidarity on Saturday afternoon on General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt’s front lawn in New Canaan, Conn.

“[General Electric is] an enormously successful company that pays no income taxes. We felt it was important for someone like Jeff Immelt to hear from people who are struggling in this economy,” said Jon Green, director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.

Many of those who came from New York were responding to an invitation posted on Occupy Wall Street’s General Assembly website that read: “In the land of the free they tax me but not G.E!” It continues, saying: “General Electric made billions last year; they paid no taxes, outsourced thousands of jobs, and got over $3 billion in tax refunds!”

Immelt reportedly earned $20 million in 2010. Despite his compensation, General Electric continued to shed jobs. According to an ABCNews.com analysis, General Electric has let more than 19,000 workers go since 2008.

Aside from being the CEO of General Electric, Immelt was appointed by President Obama to chair the task force on jobs and competitiveness.

Green said he was unable to tell if Immelt was in his sprawling 10,000-square-foot home, which according to Trulia.com is worth an estimated $5.25 million, at the time of the protest.

“It’s not the kind of home where you can just look in the window and see if the TV is on,” he said.

It’s not the first time protesters have paid visits to those they call “the 1 percent” at home.

Earlier this month, an estimated 2,000 protesters embarked on a “Millionaire’s March” in New York City, visiting the homes of News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, real estate developer Howard Milstein and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

“I want the millionaires to know that we won’t stand for this,” Elizabeth Owens, a New York resident who participated in the Oct. 11 march., told ABCNews.com. “I pay more than they do in taxes!”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Poll: Washington to Blame More Than Wall Street For Economy

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK ) -- Considering the exhaustive media coverage the  Occupy Wall Street movement has garnered, the findings in a new USA Today/Gallup Poll may come as a surprise. Although some Americans may be Occupying Wall Street, more than double the number that blame companies for their economic plight blame the federal government more: 64 percent of Americans blame Washington, versus the 30 percent blame Wall Street for the poor economy, the poll reveals.

While 54 percent say the economic system is personally fair to them only 44 percent say it is not.  And though 78 percent say Wall Street bears a great deal or a fair amount of blame for the economy, 87 percent say the same about Washington.

This poll not only brings to light the frustration shared by the majority of Americans, but also the disagreement over how to change the status quo.  

It shows that although most Americans are paying attention to the protest movement, they don’t know enough to take a clear position, as 43 percent don’t know enough to say whether they support the movement’s goals. Not helping is the fact the "Occupy" movement itself has no clear goals: interviews with protesters nationwide show they range from eco-activists to communists to anarchists and just about every fringe group in between.

When it comes to the fairness of the economic system, 49 percent of Americans without a college degree say it is unfair, while only 34 percent of college graduates do.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

Occupy Wall Street’s Bank Account Is Swelling

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For a group of people who are allegedly angry at the distribution of wealth, the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City’s Zuccotti Park are starting to bank a lot of dough.

The movement, which has been described as “organized anarchy” with no presiding leader, now has its very own finance team to handle an influx of donations, which totaled more than $50,000 on Tuesday.  The money for the group -- which rails against banks publicly -- is now being kept in a credit union account at the Amalgamated Bank.

“[It's a sign] we’re growing very fast,” said Bre Lembitz, a senior economics major at Clark University who is spending this semester working with Occupy Wall Street after her internship fell through.

Lembitz said the move to a bank has made it easier for the group to accept larger donations.

The money was previously kept in pots, which were used to collect money from passersby sympathetic to the cause.

Currently, any expenditure of $100 or more is voted on at the General Assembly, a daily meeting for everyone in the park to learn the latest Occupy Wall Street news.  Anyone who shows up has a vote.

But there are plans to streamline things this week.

“We’re actually launching a website on Thursday for members of our working groups so we can better coordinate how to spend all of the money that’s coming in,” Lembitz said.  That includes the media team, the medical unit, the sanitation team and even an archivist, to name a few.

So with big names visiting the protesters in Zuccotti Park, is any of that dough coming from Russell Simmons, Kanye West or Susan Sarandon?

“We’ve received a few anonymous donations, but we honestly don’t know,” Lembitz said.  “Most of our donations come in small amounts from people who want to help in any way that they can.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

Hedge Fund Manager to Occupy Wall Street: Don't Vilify Businesses

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, whose home was on the visiting list for Occupy Wall Street's "Millionaires March" Tuesday afternoon, said that "instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City."

Protesters took to New York City's Upper East Side Tuesday and marched past the homes of several of the city's richest residents, including News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, real estate developer Howard Milstein, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dixon.

According to the Wall Street Journal, demonstrators skipped Paulson's home because it was too far from the chosen route.

But Paulson, nevertheless, addressed the issue Tuesday through a written statement by his hedge fund, Paulson & Co.

"The top 1 percent of New Yorkers pay over 40 percent of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state," said the written statement.  "Paulson and Co. and its employees have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in New York City and New York state taxes in recent years and have created over 100 high paying jobs in New York City since its formation."

It continued, "New York currently has the highest income taxes of any state in the country and thousands of businesses have fled New York to states with no income taxes such as Florida, Texas and Nevada, or moved offshore."

According to an Occupy Wall Street spokesman, about 2,000 protesters took part in the march, which started close to 1 p.m. and made its way up Park Avenue.

The demonstration called for an extension of the state's so-called "millionaires tax," the highest income-tax rate on taxpayers with incomes of more than $500,000.  The tax is set to expire in December.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio