Business & Economy
5:50 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Occupy Raleigh Finds a New Home

The new Occupy Raleigh encampment
The new Occupy Raleigh encampment
Credit Occupy Raleigh

Occupy Raleigh protesters have set up camp four blocks from the Capital. About 15 to 20 protesters have been camping since Thanksgiving. They're paying $400-a-month for the site owned by Rob Baumgart. Baumgart says it's purely business, but he did sympathize with the protesters.

Rob Baumgart: "I got a good feeling from them. I was pleasantly surprised. The media has painted them... and I'm not saying NPR or you... but the media has painted them as a group of unemployed persons with nothing better to do. And the few that I've actually taken the time to speak to have been well-educated. And despite not having a cohesive nationwide message, I left with the impression that the Occupy Raleigh group actually had their stuff together."

61-year-old retiree Joseph Huberman has been with Occupy Raleigh since it started. He says the movement is diverse but that there's one thing they all agree on.

Joseph Huberman: "There is this tremendous inequity with 40 percent of the wealth being owned by only 1 percent of the people. And it's this inequity that crushes the middle class, and as a result, crushes the economy."

Another protester is 20-year old Kurt Zehnder, a self-described moderate Republican. He says the occupation has captured the attention of the nation.

Kurt Zehnder: "And we've been out there every single day and we've been in the news almost every single day. Occupy Wall Street certainly has been every day. The fact that we're there 24 hours a day making a point and people are recognizing we're serious about this and it's not something we're going to just let go away. There's essentially a small group of people in this country who have exorbitant amounts of money and they have the potential to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns and buy out politicians. The fact is they're silencing all the average Americans who can't do things like that. "

Baumgart says the protesters can stay indefinitely if they're paying rent and the city doesn't step in.

Baumgart: "I don't have a problem with what they're doing. I don't believe they have a cohesive message at this time, so I'm not going to come out and say I support them. However, being a business man, I saw an opportunity to provide them a piece of land they needed, and I had supply, they had demand, and took advantage of it. I support capitalism and that's the bottom line. This is a business decision. These people had a demand for a place to stay. I have a lot that currently the city is not blocked them from staying on. They're paying me. It helps me pay my bills. "

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen says no decision has been made.

The Occupy Wall Street movement started in New York City in September and has since spread across the globe, with growing media attention. Huberman says there are several problems with how the media's been covering the story.

Huberman:" The press has been focusing on the occupation and not on the message. The other problem is that when you have a very diverse group of people that are each choosing their own way in which they want to express their frustrations, you end up with occasional problems, and so it's those problems that end up getting reported. "

Click below to hear quotes and the full interview with property owner Rob Baumgart.