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The thousands of protesters who converged on New York's financial district Wednesday are a clear sign the Occupy Wall Street movement is gaining momentum, but folks within the industry are greeting the demonstrations with a collective yawn.
Judging by what I saw at the protest yesterday, that stance isn't a wrong one for our readership. Because while the movement in name certainly seems like it's aimed at reining in Wall Street largesse, there were a wide range of agendas at play among the 5,000 people who reportedly showed up at the rally in downtown Manhattan.
None of which are having any impact on the financial services employees they detest, other than occasionally annoying them with the constant buzz of noise outside their downtown offices.
"The protest is too unfocused. Most of us don't even really know what it is that they're protesting," Tabb Group analyst Kevin McPartland said. "Its biggest impact on me is the constant sound of chanting and drums literally right below my office window."
The demonstrators at yesterday's rally included various labor unions that were angered by the 2008 Wall Street bailouts and the government's perceived favoritism towards the finance sector; college students who railed against escalating tuition costs; and of course the obligatory peaceniks and socialists who always show up at these sorts of rallies in left-leaning cities across the United States.
The scene that played out in New York yesterday is expected to be replayed this afternoon in the nation's capital where another rally is scheduled. There have also been Occupy Wall Street protests in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. The movement is spreading into other cities as well.
But against the backdrop of the European debt crisis, rising hedge fund redemptions, and growing fears about the health of the U.S. economy, the investment community has far bigger worries than Occupy Wall Street.
"Their message is muddled with a mixed bag of issues," said Steve Hotovec, the chief operating officer and overseer of proprietary investing at Alchemy Ventures. "Overall I think it's a sign of the times, but until there is more clarity on the intent of these protests, there are much more pressing issues facing buy-side traders."
But while critics are correct in pointing out Occupy Wall Street's lack of an aim, there is a common denominator operating beneath it all: anger. Americans are angry at the staggering unemployment and income inequality that have been on display since the 2008 financial crisis.
Gary Nickerson, an IT consultant who attended the rally yesterday with his wife said class warfare is at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street protests. "They believe something is deeply amiss in our country," he said. "I don't know that they're trying to prove anything other than to point out the rich own America."
Gerarto Renique, a history professor at the City University of New York agreed. "We've undergone a major concentration of power among the rich," he said. "The main agenda of the federal government has been to help Wall Street."