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Occupy Wall Street, uptown edition: One man's vigil

October 17, 2011 | 12:20 pm

Subway protester
Dressed in a nice wool sweater and jeans, Bob Heller turned up this chilly Monday morning at a subway stop in tony uptown Manhattan with a protest placard that read: "Make democracy a reality: Don't let 1% rule 99%. Join Subway Satellite of Occupy Wall Street!"

Heller, 69 and retired after a career in corporate public relations, isn't about to throw up a tent downtown with the youngsters occupying Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. And he's not planning on getting arrested any time soon. In fact, next week he's off to Peru and Brazil for vacation.

But Heller, who in 1961 went to Jackson, Miss., as a Freedom Rider to fight racial inequality, says he is disgusted by the country's disparity in incomes and finds it his duty to hold a morning vigil at his neighborhood subway stop and encourage others to do the same.

"I've been telling people to start their own protest in their neighborhood," Heller said. "Then it will be everywhere."

Many well-dressed commuters gave him a thumbs up or a "right on" fist shake as they rushed to catch a train.

Heller even brought along extra posters just like his in case anyone was willing to take off an hour and join him in the tree-lined square at the West 72nd Street station on the Upper West Side.

And they have.

A 66-year-old Jamaican-born nurse spent an hour with Heller one morning last week. She knows a lot of people just getting by and is frustrated that her daughter, who has a master’s degree, can’t get a job.

A carpenter working on an apartment nearby came by during his lunch hour and grabbed a poster. He told Heller he's been living in New York 10 years and wants to buy a house but can’t get a mortgage.

And there was a 75-year-old retired physicist.

Heller said the neighborhood is probably dense with old lefties like like him who protested in their youth and still have the spirit.

"I don't know where they are," he said. "But they'll come out eventually."

A woman in a trench coat toddled past in her high heels and smiled at Heller: "Hi again," she said.

"There's a lot of people in this country who are hurting," Heller said. "Don't tell me others don't care."


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Photo: Bob Heller at his "subway satellite" location, showing solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters. Credit: Geraldine Baum / Los Angeles Times