By Chris Levister –
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests which began in New York a month ago, a crowd of approximately 150 protesters gathered in the shadow of the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. on Riverside’s Main Street pedestrian mall Saturday.
“Fight back, America!” set the tone as the mostly white crowd voiced grievances against corporate corruption but the gathering mainly acted as an open forum for protesters to suggest solutions.
Along busy Main Street, passing cars honked their horns in solidarity with demonstrators. Union members, representing a number of organizations, milled in the crowd; nurses, SEIU, teachers and others protested proposed cutbacks in the public service sector, such as the US Postal Service.
As speaker after speaker echoed frustration with the financial, defense, environmental and social justice realities of today's America, Riverside police stood by in some cases appearing to sympathize with demonstrators.
Wanderers and miscellaneous attendees of the Riverside Arts Walk occurring down the street were encouraged to participate in the vocal forum.
Lt. Leon Phillips of the Riverside Police Department said the demonstrators would be allowed to stay as long as they don’t commit crimes and clean up after themselves. Protesters pitched tents, chatted, mingled and staked prominent locations for their larger and more elaborate signs.
“Bail out schools and social services, not banks,” read a typical message. “Jobs not War,” read another.
Dubbed "Occupy Riverside," the series of meetings and protests focused on how bigger-picture Wal l Street corrupt ion issues impact the Inland Empire on a local level.
“Riverside has one of nation’s highest unemployment and foreclosure rates yet wealthy corporations rolling in profits continue to blame workers and ship jobs overseas,” said Sharon Bates, an unemployed auto parts sales person.
“Our so-called leaders have done nothing to protect our futures. It’s time to throw the bums out.”
While specific feasible solutions to corporate corruption were scarce, a call to action was well received by the crowd. A speaker exclaimed, “To the people of the world, we urge you to exert your power. In the spirit of democracy, join us, make your voices heard!
Let us gather together with grievance against mass injustice. Our system must protect our rights.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to spread, with nearly $300,000 in the bank and participants finding satisfaction in the widening impact they hope will counter the influence on society by those who hold the purse strings of the world’s economies.
The movement has no real single leader, or group of leaders.
Occupy Wall Street media representative, Mark Bray says resistance to multinational corporate influence needs a multinational movement.
“The problems that we’re facing in all these different countries vary by locality, vary by circumstance,” said Mark Bray. "But the resistance to cuts on social spending, the push for real democracy that gets the voices of working people prioritized over the voices of corporations is something that we share in common.”
Using social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the major group leadership of the movement spread word of where and when to protest. The protests began as a small group of people outside of Wall Street, but have grown after media coverage spread news about the movement.
Related protests have followed in other cities such as Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles, but are considerably smaller in size.
These movements are being seen, in some ways, as the liberal response to the Tea Party movement.
But unlike the Tea Party, which became a crucial part of the Republican party, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement blames politicians of both parties. The group is also unhappy with President Obama, blaming the president for not coming down hard on the banks after the 2008 mortgage meltdown.
The spirit of solidarity amongst the protesters was best summed up by a sign: “Corporate America has two parties, it's time the people had one.”
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