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Richard Attias

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So What Do the Occupy Wall Streeters Really Want?

Posted: 10/17/11 03:04 PM ET

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-attias/occupy-wall-street-protesters_b_1015978.htmlNew Yorkers breathed a sigh of relief last Friday at news that the owners of Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street movement is based, had delayed a decision to clean it. Protestors had perceived the proposal as a preliminary act towards moving them on, and said they would form a human chain in response. The last-minute change of mind averted potential clashes.

But who are these folk and what do they really want? That's the question many of their critics have been asking. The New York Forum team spoke to some of the people at Zuccotti Park. "This movement represents a lot of frustration and agitation with what goes on in Washington and in Wall Street. I share that frustration," one young guy told us. An 18-year-old man in a pale green shirt said, "The main thing that I think is important is corporate political influence."

The protestors see themselves as part of a change sweeping across the globe, connecting Egypt and Tunisia and London with New York. A number of high profile figures have voiced their support for the movement. Naomi Klein addressed the group on Thursday, telling the crowd that she loved them. Susan Sarandon and Kanye West have visited the site.

We should act quickly, for we ignore the people at our peril and a slow response could lead to longer-term problems, just like those we are seeing with the double recession. Nor can we overlook the demonstrations that took place this weekend all over the world -- in Madrid, Rome, Sydney, Hong Kong, London and Frankfurt.

The occupiers describe themselves as the 99 percent; one of their complaints is that a small minority of Americans control most of the country's wealth. "This is not just about occupying Wall Street. We're becoming a party of people and their concerns," an African American man explained.

According to Hari Bapuji and Suhaib Riaz, writing in the Harvard Business Review, it behooves businesses to pay attention. They cite an "authentic, deep-seated unhappiness with the failings of the U.S. economic system" and urge firms to start a sincere conversation with the movement. "Even if businesses entirely disagree with the demonstrators' viewpoints, they need to approach the protesters as equals in public discourse."

Mayor Bloomberg has said that the protestors may remain where they are indefinitely as long as they abide by the law. He suggested the length of their stay would depend on the weather. Whether that's the case or not, the movement itself may be here for a while. The young man in the green shirt in our video was idealistic. "You come down here and you are a part of something bigger."

One of our aims at the New York Forum is to foster dialog between businesses and individuals and we would be happy to host a conversation on this subject. I propose that one should happen soon.