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Occupy Wall Street……What’s That All About?

Occupy Trenton
Kevin McArdle

More Garden State voters than not support the Occupy Wall Street protests, but a significant percentage cops to having no clue what they’re really all about.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University-Public Mind poll released this morning reveals 4 of 5 voters (81%) are following the Occupy Wall Street protests, with 3 of 5 (62%) saying they’ve heard “a great deal” about them. Overall, New Jerseyans support the movement by a margin of 46%-29%. The support could have its roots in another key finding in the survey. Just 22% of Garden Starters say the country is headed in the right direction, while two-thirds (67%) say the country is “on the wrong track.”

“When New Jersey voters’ see the direction of their state as better than the direction of the country, it’s a sure sign something is deeply wrong,” says Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “Sympathy for the Wall Street protesters is a direct reflection of voters’ general dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. Something broke and voters know that whatever it was, it hasn’t been fixed.”

1 in 4 voters is unsure whether to support or oppose the protests (24%), and that substantial proportional “don’t know” cuts across every demographic sub-group from party and ideology to age and education.

“The fact that so many people don’t know what to make of the protests is a reflection of the movement’s incoherence,” says Woolley. “The protest has no one message. It means whatever the beholders, pro or con, want it to mean, but mostly it means voters are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.”

President Obama has a net negative approval rating (44%-47%) for two months running now, the first time in his presidency. However, men and women differ, with men disapproving 51% to 41% and women approving 48% to 42%.

The poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 17 through Oct. 23, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement moved to State Street in Trenton earlier this month across from the State House. A little over three dozen protesters were on hand to rail against corporate greed, economic inequality and unemployment. A handful of diehards remain.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has taken the state to court. The dispute involves what items the remaining protesters can bring with them to the World War II Memorial park across the street from the State House.

The ACLU wants a state court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop police from confiscating protest signs, electronic equipment and coolers from protesters. The state says protesters violated park rules by bringing camping and picnicking items, which could be used to conceal dangerous items.

The ACLU says the state made up park rules after the protests began earlier this month. They also claim the rules violate free speech rights. A judge heard oral arguments on the restraining order yesterday afternoon, but did not issue a ruling.

On day-one of the Trenton protests, placards read; 99% Are Getting Crushed By The Richest 1%; People over Profits; Heal America/Tax Wall Street; Healthcare not Warfare; and It’s All I Can Stand ‘Cause I Can’t Stands No More. The hardiest chant was, “United we stand, divided we beg!”

David Discenza of Toms River was among the protesters. He said, “I’ve had enough. Corporate America is running this country. Everything is geared for the big business person to make cash at the expense of people who are trying to feed their families and put a roof over their home…….I make more money than most, some, many and yet I’m struggling to survive. My bills go up and up and up. My benefits get cut and cut.”

Jon Lavender from Carteret gave the legalize marijuana movement a voice at the protest because he says it is a way to raise revenue. His four-word sign read simply, “Tax Weed, Fund Schools.”

Heath Weaver, another Toms River resident was the de facto leader of the protest. She said, “We as 99% of the public are really not being represented fairly in the government. Government officials are elected by large corporations giving them a lot of money in donations and stuff like that. Then they take care of people that are donating to their campaign.”

Protesters also gathered this month in front of the Goldman Sachs building along the Jersey City waterfront, which has direct views across the Hudson River to ground zero and lower Manhattan.

The demonstrations are part of a movement that started last month with a handful of protesters outside the New York Stock Exchange. Related demonstrations have been happening across the country, including ongoing protests in New York, where 23 people were arrested Wednesday night during a march of several thousand people. About 700 had been arrested during a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge over the weekend.

The protests have grown in size to the point of catching the attention of President Barack Obama, saying the demonstrators were expressing the frustrations of the American public.

 

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