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Occupy Wall Street protests hit Main Street

Last Updated 4:59 p.m. ET

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 nationwide.

From the streets of New York to the nation's capital to downtown Boston to the South (Mobile, Ala., Jacksonville, Fla.) and West (Portland, Ore.), Americans are frustrated and making their voices heard.

Gallery: Anti-Wall Street protests coast-to-coast

"Wealthy individuals who own giant corporations have bought off our Congress and bought off our government and, you know, the people no longer have a voice anymore," one protester told CBS News.

The marchers come from all walks of life - young and old, male and female, hoping their lawmakers are listening.

In Boston, hundreds of students from 10 area colleges marched through downtown Monday as part of the national movement.

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."

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, 19, a 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.

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.

"I think the message is obvious," said Jesse Lagreca, 38. "The wealthiest one percent is taking advantage of working class people. They've been selling us faulty financial products, they've been taking huge bonuses while depending on society to bail them out."

On Monday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the protesters will be allowed to "express themselves" as long as they obey the laws.

The mayor was asked how much longer he thinks the month-long protest will continue. Bloomberg said he had "no idea."

He added that if the protesters do something illegal, "...we're going to do what we're supposed to do -- enforce the laws."

CBSMoneywatch's Jill Schlesinger points out that, according to economists at Northeastern University, corporate profits represented 88 percent of the growth in real national income between the 2Q of 2009 and 4Q of 2010, during the same period aggregate wages and salaries accounted for just over 1 percent. "The money that companies have earned during the recovery has mostly stayed within corporate America," writes Schlesinger, "and has not trickled down into higher wages, nor has it created enough jobs to put some of the 14 million unemployed Americans back to work."

Moneywatch: Shrinking Incomes Fuel Protester Anger

Democratic Party campaigns on "Occupy Wall Street"

"Ninety-nine percent of the people need to be prospering, not just the top one percent," said Michael Mulgrew, president of New York City's United Federation of Teachers.

"Every community knows they're hurting, what's going on is wrong, and it's time to stop this and make a difference, and do things that allow all people to prosper."

On "The Early Show" Monday, Former Senator Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said of the protests spreading across the country, "I'm not just pleased about it, I'm excited about it."

He reflected on the pro-labor demonstrations in Wisconsin earlier this year that were sparked by the governor's fight to take away collective bargaining rights from public sector workers in his state. "We did it here, and I think this is going to happen all over the country," Feingold said, "because people have been kicked when they are down, over and over again. You can only kick people so long before they react.

"This is time now for accountability, and this is a good way to show people how strongly we feel. The working people of this country have been treated very brutally and it has to change."

The protesters' ire has even reached the race for president.

GOP candidate and Florida businessman Herman Cain had no sympathy for the protesters or their message. On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Cain said protesters are acting out of "jealousy" for bankers' success, and suggested demonstrators who complain that they are jobless are just "playing the victim card."

"It's anti-American because to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying that you're anti-capitalism," Cain told Bob Schieffer.

Cain: Wall St. protesters playing victim card

The protests have also angered those who work on Wall Street who believe they are being wrongly demonized.

"I think that there's an overall paralysis in government and people are frustrated, I get that," said trader Jason Weisberg. "But, you know, it's being vented to the wrong place."

On "60 Minutes" Sunday Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, denied that the American people are anti-corporation.

"You know, everybody in Germany roots for Siemens," Immelt told Lesley Stahl. "Everybody in Japan roots for Toshiba. Everybody in China roots for China South Rail. I want you to say, 'Win, G.E.'"

"Do you not see any reason that maybe the public doesn't hold American corporations up here in the highest ...?" asked Stahl.

"I think this notion that it's the population of the U.S. against the big companies is just wrong. It's just wrong-minded," he replied.

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On "The Early Show," Feingold, D-Wis., said in response to a clip of the GE CEO's statement, "Well, Mr. Immelt is not recognizing that you root for corporations when corporations are making sure your jobs stay here in the United States. His corporation has had more to do with shipping jobs overseas than almost any corporation in the world.

"And so the deal here is, we root for corporations and we support them if they are fair to us," Feingold said. "But these people who are protesting are recognizing that just about everything that has happened to working people has been unfair in recent years. You have the greed on Wall Street; you have the very wealthy insisting they not contribute at all to solving our deficit and our debt problems; you have corporations buying up the political process through secret donation. People have had it."

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