Are they distinct from the Tea Parties? It's not clear. They seem to be mad at many of the same entities (corporations and banks), but while many in the Tea Parties focus on government (especially the Federal Government) as the larger problem - in fact, the enabler of the corporations and banks - Occupy Wall Street (so far, at least) seems focused on Wall Street. Also, like the Tea Parties, Occupy Wall Street has been accused of being violent and disruptive. This early on, when so little is known, it will be easy for each side to spin things the way they like.
What is interesting is the way those on the left and center have flocked so rapidly to support the new group, totally unlike the way they did with the Tea Parties. While Tea Party Members have loudly spoken their minds at some town meetings, earning them the label of violence, and for this reason primarily the many rejects them, the Wall Street Occupiers have from the very beginning engaged in violent confrontations with police and disrupted traffic, yet the same people that rejected the Tea Parties support this new group from the very beginning.
The media coverage of this group has also been interesting, contrasting them with the Tea Parties as being more racially diverse, younger, and more festive. Opponents could of course say that "festive" is a matter of opinion, and "younger" means less "age-diverse". They also speak of them as having a "flat hierarchy". In some of the videos at ABC, they speak of a horizontal democracy. What they seem to be describing is a system where every voting member has veto power, this assures that everybody is happy and no minority opinion is squashed by the majority as in pure democracy. This is an idea I have always associated with centrists and libertarians. Are these people libertarian? Why aren't they in the Tea Parties?
I also find it interesting that some of the same people that criticized the GOP as being the party of NO, accusing them of offering no solutions and only mindlessly opposing Obama's reelection, are the same people who find no trouble with this new group they know so little about. Indeed, some inside the movement do not care that they have no ideas to replace the current system with, wanting only to destroy the old one at this point, and admitting they have anarchists in their ranks. They state this explicitly; no analysis is necessary.
Be careful who you stand next to. There are dangerous people in this group. Even Glenn Beck, despised by many for promoting incivility they say, warns us about the incivility of this group. Some members call for totalitarianism and even inherently self-defeating solutions. Still, one shouldn't judge a group or its message by those who come to join it. After all, aren't there racists in the Tea Party? A better way would be to judge it by its leaders and founders, one of which by the way, is self-described communist, and former member of the Obama administration Van Jones.
Why do so many prefer this group over the Tea Party? I don't understand.