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Boston area college students join Wall St. protest

By Steve LeBlanc
Associated Press / October 10, 2011

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BOSTON—Hundreds of students from 10 area colleges marched through downtown Boston on Monday as part of the national Occupy Wall Street movement, briefly confronting police while attempting to hang a banner on a Boston bridge.

The protesters gathered on Boston Common and marched in front of the Massachusetts Statehouse carrying signs that read "Apathy isn't working, Raise your voice," and chanting slogans like "Fund education, not corporations" and "We got sold out. Rich got bailed out."

Protesters later marched to a Charlestown bridge near the city's North End neighborhood hoping to hang a banner.

Police blocked the bridge, which was closed for about an hour before the protesters dispersed. Two demonstrators appeared to scuffle with officers during the standoff. Police did not immediately report any arrests.

Francis Rick, a sophomore at Framingham State University, said many of her friends are struggling to pay for their education even while holding down part time jobs.

"A lot of us are already in debt and we haven't graduated yet. A lot of my friends, even though they work 20 hours a week, that is not enough to cover their expenses," said Rick, a 19-year-old psychology major. "A lot of us can't even afford to get sick."

The protesters met on Boston Common at about 1:30 p.m. A half-hour later they began their march and looped around the Common, passing by the Statehouse before heading toward Dewey Square in downtown Boston, the focal point of the Occupy Wall Street protests in the city.

Student protesters said they're angry with an education system that they say mimics what they call the "irresponsible, unaccountable, and unethical financial practices" of Wall Street.

They also pointed to what they say is the income disparity of university presidents earning hundreds of thousands of dollars while other university workers struggle to make ends meet.

The protests have drawn comparisons to those of the Tea Party, a conservative political movement that gained steamed after the election of President Barack Obama.

At times, the protest movements seemed to echo each other, with supporters in both movements targeting what they have described as the excesses of Wall Street. One of the protesters in Monday's rally also carried the iconic "Don't Tread on Me" flag that has been a prominent feature at Tea Party rallies.

But the marchers on Monday said they had little in common with the Tea Party, which they see as supported by Republican and corporate backers.

The Occupy Wall Street protests drew comment from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaking to voters in New Hampshire on Monday. Romney appeared to criticize protesters.

"Are there bad actors on Wall Street? Absolutely. Are there bad actors on Main Street? Absolutely. And they have to be found and picked out and plucked out," the GOP presidential candidate told the crowd.

"But to say somehow that we should point and attack other Americans, or other regions of America, or industries in America, I think it would be a mistake," Romney added.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which began with a small knot of protesters in Manhattan's financial district, has grown steadily, spreading to student groups and labor unions.

Last week, about 300 members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, one of the state's largest unions, also joined the rally for the first time.

The protesters have described themselves at the "99 percent" -- referring to what they say are the vast number of Americans struggling to pay their bills while the income gap between the rich and middle class widens.

Some of the protesters in Boston on Monday held signs that simply read "99 percent." Other signs said "End Corporate Political Donations" and "Med. Students for Economic Justice."

Similar protests have sprung up in other cities.


Associated Press photographer Elise Amendola contributed to this story.