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Takin' it to the streets — Friday Harbor 'Occupied'

Joining in what
Joining in what's become a worldwide phenomenon, islanders take to the streets of Friday Harbor to demonstrate against financial inequality with their own version of 'Occupy Wall Street'.
— image credit: Cali Bagby

Protestors have gathered in New York City for six weeks, yelling mantras like “Occupy Wall Street, all day, all week”, with signs raised and fists pumped into the air.

On Saturday, Oct. 15 about a dozen islanders gathered in front of the San Juan County Courthouse, fewer numbers, but with the same slogan of “We are the 99 percent” and island-centric phrases such as “Occupy Reality.”

“Something has to be done, we have to stop Wall Street from stealing money from the American people,” said Jon Gresseth, who took part in the demonstration for several hours. “People have been too fat and happy, but things are changing,”

More than a month ago, hundreds, and then thousands, gathered in New York’s Liberty Square to protest the consolidation of wealth and power, plummeting household income, skyrocketing school debt, and a broken political system.

As the Occupy Wall Street rally continues, residents of smaller cities and towns have been inspired to form their own resistance.

Critics say the groups are without a single set of demands, but protestors maintain they are clearly united by their concerns about growing inequality and corporate excesses.

Clare DeLong, co-organizer of the “Occupy Friday Harbor”, said goal No. 1 should be to amend a ruling by the US Supreme Court that corporations are persons.

“For a corporation to have the same constitutional rights as a person is wrong,” DeLong said. “Everyone needs to look to reflect on their role in the influence of corporations in the country. Corporations wouldn’t have that strength, if we didn’t give them that power. All of us that have lived that consumerism lifestyle, anyone with a computer or who shops off island is responsible.”

As Gresseth watched “Occupy Wall Street” unfold, he felt it was his responsibility to do something. He jumped at the chance to join the rally on the courthouse lawn.

“There are not many things I’d demonstrate for, I’m not a demonstrator,” Gresseth said. “I’m an architect, a business man, I don’t want to make waves, but this is outrageous.”

Initially, DeLong thought of holding “Occupy Friday Harbor” at the Elections Offices to make a positive statement -- advocating for people to get involved and to stay involved in democracy.

“We don’t want to be disruptive,” she said.

Protestors chose to stand in front of the courthouse because it symbolizes government for all San Juan Island residents.

Vivian Burnett, who also demonstrated on Saturday with her two daughters, held a sign that read “Occupy Reality.”

“What does ‘Occupy Reality’ mean? I think that’s up to the person that’s reading it,” Burnett said. “And what is their reality.”

She said the “positive, non-violent” movement in front of the courthouse gives people a place to vent frustration and offer compassion for people affected by the recession.

Gresseth has questioned whether standing on the sidewalk with signs actually makes a difference and his conclusion is yes - it draws attention to the issues and putting a little effort into something important makes him feel better.

Demonstrators plan to gather in front of the courthouse every Friday, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

“As far as I can tell every American agrees on this,” Gresseth said. “Almost every car was giving us the thumbs up, honking a horn in support. Only two people gave us the finger.”

For more info or ways to get involved, visit www.movetoamend.org or www.occupywallst.org

 

Community Events, April 2014

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