The country has been watching many angry Americans speak out against the great and growing disparity between the rich and the poor here in the U.S. Protestors have peacefully been making their presence and their dissatisfaction known regarding the fraternization between large corporations and the government. Now, the movement that began as Occupy Wall Street has reached the local level.
The Occupy CU movement began in Champaign-Urbana with a general meeting on October 14, followed by a demonstration on Saturday, October 15. Protesters gathered in West Side Park near downtown Champaign to voice their opinions to the masses. Toward the afternoon, the crowd had largely dispersed, but some remained on the corner of University Ave. and State St. to show their signs to the many cars and passers-by. It seemed that many were not without an opinion on this movement; almost all of the cars passing by responded with a positive honk, thumbs up, or a stop to voice their support. A few others gave less friendly hand gestures and voiced their disapproval.
One protester, Lizz, told Smile Politely that though she could not speak for everyone, she was there because she was ultimately tired of big corporations government ignoring the needs of the people. Lizz said, “I don’t expect corporations to have any compassion for the people. I expect our government to listen to the people instead selling their loyalties to corporations.” When asked whom she hoped would notice the protest most, she answered that she not only hoped that the corporations would notice, but also the average Joe, who may know nothing about the movement, in order to inspire him. Ultimately, her advice to citizens is, “If you believe in it, support it, so your cause can have the numbers to back it up.”
Roger Cooper, an avid blogger and creator of newsworldwide.wordpress.com said that he was fed up with the federal government. He explained that his motivation had no political party base because he had tried to be a member of every party and realized they all ultimately have the same problem: money. Cooper described the major push for protests being that corporations are under-regulated because they have the means to finance elections and pay for politicians’ campaigns. These politicians, therefore, are unlikely to place restrictions on corporations for fear of losing their financial support.
Another protester, Matt, expressed this same sentiment by stating that even though they are only 1% of our population, they have much more representation than 1% in politics and the economy. We all need to have equal representation in government. Matt explained that he was motivated to join the movement because he had seen the protests spreading around the world and he very much agreed with the message that was being sent. He figured that the least he could do was contribute his sign and his time.
When asked how long the protesters planned on staying on the corner and continuing with the movement, Brad said that he intended to stay out there as long as he could stand it. All protesters emphasized their commitment to the movement and their intentions to remain involved.
Adbusters, an activist group based in Vancouver, Canada, originally called for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Adbusters is a non-profit media foundation that describes themselves on their site as a “…global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators, and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century.”
Adbusters explains that the Occupy Wall Street movement is “…a people powered movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. Inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy…” The movement began with more than 1,000 protestors marching through New York City streets emphatically shouting what has become their motto: “We are the 99%!” Their marches were met with opposition from NYC Police and, though there have been several pepper spray and crowd control incidents, the protests have been, for the most part, vocal but peaceful.
The New York Movement is going strong and is now in its 30th day of protests in Zucotti Park in New York City. NYC protestors called for others to speak out against the ways that the government aids big money corporations and banks, while leaving behind the majority of their citizens. On October 15, more than 951 different cities vowed to stage their own Occupy movements, and Champaign-Urbana was one of them.
Photos by Erich Hehn.