Robert S. Halper, a retired Wall Street trader, spends time each day in Zuccotti Park talking to protesters about politics and their thoughts on reforming the banking system.
But Mr. Halper, a 52-year-old Brooklyn native, never reveals two facts about himself: he is a former vice chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the largest single donor to the nonprofit magazine that ignited the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“The whole thing is very surreal to me — the fact that I spent my whole career right across the street,” he said in an interview last week on a marble bench near the park. “It makes me a little anxious, to tell you the truth. It could go anywhere. I just pray that it ends peaceful.”Mr. Halper said he first heard about the plan for protests in June when he visited Kalle Lasn, the editor in chief of Adbusters, a Canadian anticorporate magazine, in Vancouver. Over a steak dinner, the two longtime friends discussed Mr. Lasn’s project, a plan to fill Wall Street with protesters as a way to galvanize anger on the political left into a revolutionary movement resembling the Arab Spring.“I rolled my eyes,” he said. “I was more interested in talking about health care.”But Mr. Halper, who lives on the Upper West Side, had long been a supporter of the magazine, donating by his estimate $50,000 to $75,000 over the last 20 years since he was first attracted by the magazine’s spoofs on corporate logos and advertisements. So he wrote a check for $20,000 and returned to his life in New York.A month later, the magazine sent an e-mail blitz to 90,000 readers and advocates calling for the occupation of Wall Street and setting the date for the first protesters to camp in downtown Manhattan.“We sparked it,” said Mr. Lasn, 69, but “what they’ve done up until now — with a leaderless movement that is all-inclusive — that’s given them a kind of mystique that has launched a national conversation.”The text of that initial call can still be found on the magazine’s Web site, which has been filled with photos and videos from the Occupy Wall Street protests. Mr. Lasn said the magazine’s circulation, now roughly 120,000, had expanded in the weeks since protesters took over Zuccotti Park on the Adbusters-selected date, Sept. 17....MORE
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Retired Trader Who Bankrolled #OccupyWallStreet
From the New York Times via CNBC: