Occupy Bling Street: Celebrities Turn Wall Street Protests Into Media Circus

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TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / Getty Images

Singer Kanye West visits demonstrators with 'Occupy Wall Street' on October 10, 2011 in New York.

Kanye West and Russell Simmons are the latest stars to show their solidarity with the protesters. But wait a minute, aren’t they the 1%?

The ongoing protests in lower Manhattan became a veritable frenzy when Kanye West entered the fray Monday afternoon. Showing up with buddy Russell Simmons, who was appearing on Al Sharpton’s radio show, the two hip-hop heavyweights made their way through the crowd, greeting the stalwart demonstrators who were in their 24th day of protest Monday.

Simmons noted that “people were climbing on [Kanye]” as the two briefly strolled through the crowd. There was little chatting (West reportedly didn’t even open his mouth), and no performance from either, before they quickly got into a car and drove off.

(PHOTOS: Wall Street: Photos from the Protests)

We’re not underestimating the impact of celebrity cameos; star power is certainly a necessity to bring the Occupy Wall Street protests into the public’s consciousness. And the ramp-up in status is noticeable: Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Penn Badgly and Lupe Fiasco have all shown up to provide support (read: exposure) to the demonstrators in New York City.

But aside from lending their faces, and perhaps momentarily, their voices, to the crowds (and cameras), it seems unlikely that the celebs share the same demands as the protesters. Susan Sarandon showed up to talk economic inequality and bankers’ bonuses – before reportedly hopping a flight to Italy. And after their whirlwind pass-through Monday, Simmons tweeted, “I just walked @kanyewest thru the #occupywallstreet. I love how sweet and tolerant he was to the crowd.” The tweet indeed says it all: Simmons’ seemingly condescending tone puts West in a class above the protesters.

And is he wrong to do so? West, who showed up wearing gold grills, no less, ranked #3 on Forbes’ list of hip-hop’s top earners, raking in a cool $16 million in the past year alone. Yeezy has so much disposable income from his steady job and multitude of endorsements that he can spend $180,000 on a watch with his diamond-encrusted likeness on it. And isn’t this the same rapper that crooned in “Gold Digger” that he was fed up with giving his money away? Isn’t this the antithesis of the protesters’ share-the-wealth demands?

Though perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s challenging to predict what the celebrities want when the protesters haven’t even clarified their own demands.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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