BOSTON Ivy League professors dropped by anti-Wall Street protest camps in Boston and New York on Friday to school the demonstrators on theories that bolster their demands to end inequality in the American economy.
Part of the Occupy Boston site was temporarily renamed "Free School University" as the crowd gathered at the feet of Brown University international political economy professor Mark Blyth and Boston University international relations professor Kevin Gallagher.
Standing on a wooden crate, they discussed with a crowd of about 50 people the misdeeds of Wall Street and Washington. Future forums were scheduled to address anarchism, psychology and law and privacy rights.
"People have every right to be angry," Blyth said about the Wall Street bailout in 2008, which left banks enjoying huge profits while average Americans suffered under high unemployment and job insecurity with little help from the federal government.
In New York later on Friday, a Columbia University professor was slated to talk to protesters about activism in Greece.
Organizers, who have pledged to stay in the tent village in Boston's financial district indefinitely and possibly into the winter, said they were kicking off what they hoped would become a regular forum for education and discussion.
The crowd was mixed with people versed in economic policies and others struggling to understand how the country will climb out of the financial crisis.
People picking up lunch at nearby food trucks gazed at the protesters, some snapped photos, while others meandered through the camp with their take-out meals.
Stephen Jerome, 50, from Lawrence, Massachusetts came by with his checkbook, donating $500 to the cause.
"These people are here with their hearts and brains and compassion," he said.
Aaron Cohen has been passing by on his lunch hour to show support.
The 61-year-old epidemiologist said he too is worried about his own financial security and that of his three daughters and grandchildren.
"They are starting out farther behind even with our support than when we were at their age," Cohen said. Despite being employed as teachers, student loans leave his daughters, in their 30s, wondering if and when they will be able to buy homes.
Christine and Robert Gerzon, who traveled from Concord, Massachusetts, intend to organize their neighbors to donate supplies to the Boston demonstrators.
The Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York last month with a few people has expanded to protests across the country with marches and camps taking shape from Tampa, Florida to Portland, Oregan, and Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
Protesters' messages range from anti-corporate sentiments to frustration with the financial system and politicians.
Three weeks after protesters first hunkered down in New York City, the city has spent more than $1.9 million in overtime to dispatch police for crowd control during protests, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Friday.
While the ranks of protesters in New York have swelled into the thousands at times, most demonstrations elsewhere have numbered in the hundreds.
An Occupy San Antonio march on Friday attracted about two dozen supporters. Roughly the same number gathered in Washington D.C.'s McPherson Square.
(Additional reporting by Lily Kuo in Washington, D.C. and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Greg McCune)