Photos: Occupy Wall Street protest signs feature Reagan, Marx and free hugs

Who are the Occupy Wall Street protesters and what do they hope to achieve? If you don’t know, you aren’t alone– even news anchors have a hard time answering basic questions about this growing political movement.

Occupy Wall Street protesters have been variously portrayed as  “un-American” malcontents,  a liberal answer to the Tea Party, or simply aimless young people looking for a good time. AdBusters, the online magazine credited with inspiring the original protests on September 17th, has lofty but vague goals for the movement:

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is thundering across America, threatening to morph into a full fledged national movement. Channeling the nonviolence of the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the bottom-up collective decision making of the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy.

Today I decided to visit the epicenter of the movement, Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, to see for myself what these demonstrations are about.

What I found was a diverse group of Americans– in terms of age, ethnicity and lifestyle– who came together to vent their frustrations in a peaceful way. There were idealistic young people and older men with grizzled beards that fit the definition of “hippies,” but there were also families, musicians, artists and just about anyone else you could imagine.

I was fascinated by the protest signs, which ranged from clever jokes to deeply personal stories. They promoted environmentalism, tax reform and “free hugs,” reflecting the diversity of the protesters.

>> Scroll down for photos of the men and women occupying Zuccotti Park and their eye-catching signs.

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 skeleton 2

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 Ronald Reagan

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 marx sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 jesus sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 drawing

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 Indian Point

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 painting protest signs

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 artist at work

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 world sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 bottom feeder sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 t-shirts

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 t-shirt

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 occupy sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 future is fucked

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 bathroom sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 homeless sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 "wonderful" sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 clown

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 corporations sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 crooks sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 dream sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 free hugs

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 liberty car

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 young women

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 corporate greed sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 NYPD sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 corruption sign

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 vets peace

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 sweatshops

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 jobless

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 sick and tired

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 smile

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 musician

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 musicians

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 sleeping

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 corporate wealth

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 vet

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011

NYC Occupy Wall Street Rally Oct 8 2011 sign collection

What do you think of the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Share your opinion with other readers by leaving a comment below.

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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded DowntownTraveler.com after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.