NEW YORK -- On the 18th day of Occupy Wall Street, the protest against corporate greed that began as a small group of grassroots activists and spread to dozens of cities across the U.S. and abroad, several big names joined the shouting masses in Liberty Square.
Groups such as progressive political action group MoveOn, as well as several teachers, construction, nurses and other labor unions latched on to the protest, planning a highly visible march toward the end of the work day Wednesday.
Those associated with Occupy Wall Street, however, said they had no problem with welcoming new comrades in the form of professional activist groups.
"I don't give a shit about Occupy Wall Street, that's just a name," a man named Jesse, who acts as a do-it-all information resource for the protest, told Raw Story. He brushed his teeth over a garbage can with a bottle of water and travel toothbrush, and toothpaste he pulled from his pocket, while answering questions.
"This is not about the name," he said, "it's about how we can work together to do something larger."
Construction workers in fluorescent vests and hard hats also moved among the crowd, watching performers dance and hula-hoop in front of an ever-beating drum circle. Several of the workers were on break from nearby construction projects, such as Freedom Tower.
Mark Bray, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press team, moved through the square carrying a handwritten cardboard PRESS sign duct taped to a pole. He wore a button-down shirt and shoes, in contrast with many of the gathered protesters.
The movement was not being co-opted, he said, because there was nothing specific to co-opt.
"We don't have one specific policy goal. We are creating the vehicle to move mountains, but we don't have to choose a specific mountain to move."
"We started Occupy Wall Street without any institutional support," Bray said. "We've just really resonated with unions' issues. I think the more organizations that join, it's wonderful. This plurality is something we encourage."
Participants agreed that Occupy Wall Street is important not only because of it's message against corporate greed and economic injustice and imbalance, but also because of the passion it inspired in people.
Paolo Mastrangelo, who has been a regular at Liberty Square and runs popular site NYC the Blog and the accompanying twitter handle (@newyorkist), said he lives in the area and liked experiencing history in the city as it unfolded.
"I support the fostering of a protest culture and people advocating for change, and that's what they're doing," he said.
Photo: Kase Wickman.