New York (CNN) — Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, music star Kanye West and the Rev. Al Sharpton were the latest to lend their celebrity to the Occupy Wall Street cause, mixing with the masses in New York on Monday, days ahead of a larger, promised protest targeting mammoth banks.
Their visits came as the burgeoning movement continued to echo from coast to coast, voicing impassioned sentiments on a range of topics while commonly railing against what protesters describe as corporate greed, political ineptitude and the inordinate power wielded by the United States’ wealthiest people.
“We are here today because we agree 1% should not be controlling the (nation’s) wealth,” Sharpton said on his nationally syndicated radio program from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. “These (demonstrators) are regular people trying to feed their families, trying to pay their rent and mortgages, trying to survive.”
The outspoken civil rights activist and his “Keepin’ It Real” show were joined Monday in the park — where protesters have been camping out for 24 days — by Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Recordings and the Phat Farm clothing empire, one of many high-profile people to visit in recent days. And a YouTube video, posted on Rapdose.com, showed Simmons at the park flanked by Grammy Award-winning artist Kanye West.
Earlier, organizers of the “leaderless resistance movement” billed Monday as “Kids Speak Out” day, given that many schoolchildren are off for Columbus Day.
“Even as banks got bailed out, American children have witnessed their parents get tossed out of their homes and lose their jobs. Public school kids have lost arts, music and physical education,” the movement’s website said. “Now our kids can see activists take these issues to the streets in a democratic forum at Occupy Wall Street.”
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University students played a big part Monday in demonstrations associated with the movement in Boston.
Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts and other schools were among those represented — along with members of several labor unions and other groups who have been active in Occupy Boston events in recent weeks. Overhead video from Boston showed long lines of people filling up streets as they marched.
A posting on the website of that city’s movement suggested that the march from the Boston Common to Dewey Square was timed to come on the eve of key votes on the American Jobs Act, a bill pushed by President Barack Obama to boost the economy.
“We can’t just sit idly by while the politicians in Washington play political games with our jobs and our livelihoods,” protester Jay Chambers said on the site, which claimed the bill would create “at least 11,000 local jobs.” “It’s time to take the fight to the streets.”
But that didn’t appear to be the only message. Video showed one Boston protester holding up a sign that read “No privatization of public education,” and CNN affiliate WCVB characterized the event as a protest against university presidents’ high salaries.
Open Story: See iReports from the protests.
The nationwide movement has been largely peaceful, though it has led to some skirmishes with police and arrests, particularly in New York and Washington. It has also stoked fervent public debate, including among politicians. Democrats have generally offered sympathy for protesters’ concerns while several Republicans, among them 2012 presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, have described the demonstrations as “class warfare.”
New York Mayor Bloomberg, an independent, appeared Monday to soften his stance about the protests.
Last Friday, he said on WOR radio that some demonstrators were “trying to destroy the jobs of working people in the city” and suggested it could only be a matter of time before officials potentially put an end to the Zuccotti Park encampment. Yet, speaking to CNN affiliate WCBS at a Columbus Day parade, the mayor said the city now plans to allow the protesters to stay indefinitely.
“The bottom line is, people want to express themselves, as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to,” he said.
The Occupy movement shows few signs of slowing down. Rallies and marches have been held in numerous towns and cities in recent days, with many more planned.
That includes a “Call to Action Against Banks,” which New York’s Occupy Wall Street announced on its Facebook site will happen Saturday.
“No longer will banks take our homes. No longer will banks rob students of our future. No longer will banks destroy the environment. No longer will banks fund the misery of war. No longer will banks cause massive unemployment. And no longer will banks create and profit from economic crisis without a struggle,” according to the online message Monday.
It then urges people to “visit your local Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Chase (branches) and let them know, we will not allow business as usual.”
“We. Will. Occupy. Everywhere,” the posting ends.