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Susan Sarandon lends star power to Wall Street protests

Susan Sarandon joins Wall Street protests to 'educate' herself. Visits by Sarandon and other high-profile activists are helping 'Occupy Wall Street' gain attention, despite a small turnout.

By Jeff CoxCNBC.com Senior Writer / September 28, 2011

US peace activist Cindy Sheehan (right) and US actress and peace activist Susan Sarandon embrace during the CodePink Women for Peace 24-hour Mother's Day peace vigil in Washington in 2006. On Sept. 27, 2011, Ms. Sarandon joined activists that have staged Wall Street protests this month.

Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom/File

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The noisy bazaar of militants, 21st century hippies and dreadlocked nomads with rainbow stocking caps may have fallen short of their "Occupy Wall Street" goal, but they are getting noticed.

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From the lunchtime passersby to the Freedom Tower construction workers to a prominent member of the Hollywood liberal braintrust, the demonstration against corporate greed is, at least, drawing onlookers.

That may also be the most the week-old demonstration accomplishes. "Occupy Wall Street"—a rag-tag organization orchestrated on the streets and online—promised thousands but has delivered just hundreds.

Still, the attention is being looked at as the first step in a long journey.

"I came down here to educate myself," actress Susan Sarandon told CNBC.com. "It's been really informative and I'll be back (following a trip to Italy). There's a huge void between the rich and the poor in this country."

Clad in jeans, a modest polka-dot pullover and just a touch of makeup, Sarandon could have blended in easily with the crowd had it not been for a small phalanx of cameras and gawkers trailing the biggest shot of starpower "Occupy Wall Street" has seen so far. (Filmmaker Michael Moore reportedly stopped by Monday evening.)

Known for her support of many similar causes, Sarandon encapsulated the prevailing sentiments at the demonstration: Bankers and traders who run the financial markets and their enablers in Washington have hijacked the system from ordinary Americans who just want a decent job and a home of their own.

Asked whether she felt Wall Street deserved the abuse the protesters heaped on it, Sarandon bristled.

"Do you think if you asked that question of anyone in America the answer would be 'no'?" she said. "It's not to say that everything is Wall Street's responsibility. There are good corporations. I can't think of any off the top of my head."

"Greed is widespread all over the world," she added. "We have to start making human decisions and put people at the top of the line."

Tuesday was a happier day for "Occupy Wall Street," which was marred over the weekend when police pepper-sprayed some of the protesters.

With much of the preceding tumult gone, a small marching band banged out a rhythm by which the rest of the protest community seemed to move.

Young men and women staffed tables and asked for petition signatures. Signs dotted the sidewalks and politically fueled chatter filled the air. Mattresses dotted the landscape and the weary huddled in blankets, while the stray banjo, guitar or even an accordion contributed to the event's soundtrack.

"We believe in nonviolence. We are peaceful," explained Chris Mapp, a 20-year old New York Film Academy student who has been around for several days helping to demonstrate. "No rights, no justice, no peace."

One thing to know about "Occupy Wall Street" is that it doesn't really occupy Wall Street at all. The protest instead has found a home at Zuccotti Park at Broadway and Liberty Street, about three blocks away.