Ben And Jerry Raise Dough For Occupy Movement

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, are part of a group of business leaders trying to raise money for Occupy Wall Street to help it regain its earlier momentum. Host Scott Simon talks with them about how they've already raised $300,000 and aim to raise $1.5 million more.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A group of business leaders hope they can lift the Occupy Movement with an infusion of cash. So far, they've raised $300,000, with plans to add $1.5 million more. The Movement Resource Group, a nonprofit that they've set up, wants to use the money to set up an office, create a website, and give out project grants to members of the Occupy Movement.

But already, their efforts have drawn some criticism from within the Movement, from people who say they're uncomfortable with the money and what it could man. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, are a part of the fundraising effort, and they join us from the studios of Vermont Public Radio. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

BEN COHEN: Lovely to be here with you, Scott.

SIMON: And let me ask you both: Is this what amounts to an Occupy Wall Street bailout?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COHEN: Absolutely not. This is providing the fuel for this Movement, which is rocking and rolling. And the amount of energy and planning that's gone on in the winter is unbelievable, and it's going to be a really productive summer and spring.

SIMON: Are you positioning this group to, in a sense, be the voices and the images of the Occupy Movement rather than the people in parks across the country?

JERRY GREENFIELD: Oh, not at all. That's the last thing that we would try to do. What we're trying to do is help provide some resources so that the people in the Movement are better able to get their message out.

COHEN: Well, and I think it's important to understand that the Movement is in the process of transitioning from being based on spontaneous occupations of parks, to being more strategic and not based on park occupations, since there aren't very many of those around anymore.

SIMON: As I don't have to tell you, there's been some pretty intense criticism from some members of the Occupy Movement. There was a meeting at the Upper West Side, a woman named - identified as Marissa Holema got up and said, quote: I can't get rid of this sinking feeling in my stomach that this will destroy the very foundation of the Movement I tried to build.

COHEN: Yeah, I think that Marissa, of course, is speaking for herself. And there are a bunch of people in the Occupy Movement that agree with her. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. And I think time will tell whether she sees this money as being helpful for the Movement, or not.

SIMON: What happens to supporters of the Occupy Movement who decide they just don't want to sign up for this?

GREENFIELD: You know, I don't think the Occupy Movement is monolithic. I think it encompasses a lot of different strains, and I think that's healthy.

COHEN: I mean, this is just a funding source. People don't want to take this funding - they certainly don't have to. There's a bunch of other funding sources, and this is definitely not saying that this is some other strain of the Movement.

SIMON: You know the importance of having a message that people can understand and communicate itself. Has the message from the Occupy Movement been coherent? Is this something you want to work on?

COHEN: I think that the message from the Occupy Movement has been incredibly diverse. I think that there is an overwhelming, overarching message, which is that we want a society that works for the 99 percent instead of just for the wealthy and corporations. That's a pretty clear, simple message, I think.

SIMON: Gentlemen, thank you both very much.

COHEN: All right. Good talking to you, Scott.

GREENFIELD: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield - the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, and part of a group of business leaders now raising money in support of the Occupy Movement.

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