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Occupy Wall Street protests spread to Cleveland

Oct. 13, 2011

By Brian Mitchell

Hundreds of protesters converged near Cleveland’s Free Stamp sculpture on Oct. 6 to begin the newest chapter in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The demonstration is being called Occupy Cleveland.

The movement has no leader, no singular objective and features a diverse group of participants.

“The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent,” said a statement on the Occupy Cleveland website.

“I am here because our politicians are sold to the highest bidder and people have no voice in their future,” said Case Western Reserve Law student Becka Hawkins. “Politicians cannot relate and have no conception of what life is like for the average person.”
Hawkins also said she was concerned about student loans and access to quality employment.

“I came today because we live in a new gilded age were Wall Street and the corporations work with impunity,” said protester Monica Pulaski.

While no official list of demands has been issued by the protestors, a press release sent out by Occupy Cleveland listed several “principles of solidarity” that guide the movement.

“Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy, exercising personal and collective responsibility, recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions, empowering one another against all forms of oppression, redefining how labor is valued, the sanctity of individual privacy, the belief that education is human right and endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.”

Similar to the labor union support seen in the Occupy Wall Street protests, several representatives from various Northeast Ohio labor unions joined the demonstration to advocate for workers rights.

“We are fed up and it is time to stand up,” said Service Employees International Union member Cynthia Smith. “I am one of the people affected every day by Wall Street taking from the small people.”

A spokesperson from the AFL-CIO told the crowd, “100,000 members of our entire labor union stand behind you.”

Also in attendance were members of the Cleveland Fire Fighters Union, Teamsters Local 507 and a delegation from the Registered Nurses of America union.

A representative from the office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich delivered a message from the congressmen. “This is a cry for justice. Far too many are struggling as a result of the axis of greed in America. You are the beginning of a new America, I stand with you.”

While the majority of the demonstrators were young people, only a small number of Cleveland State students attended the protest.
“I believe in everything the Occupy Wall Street movement stands for,” said senior Mike Messe.

The demonstration opened with a speech by one of the event’s organizers. Following the speech, volunteers were called to perform various jobs during the demonstration such as note-taking and vibe-checking.

Several members of the crowd took turns voicing concerns over an array of topics. However, the prevalent theme was anger directed towards Wall Street.

Similar to the beginnings of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Cleveland is largely a product of organization through social media sites. Many in the national media are calling the demonstrations the first large scale American protests fueled by social media.

The Twitter tag #OccupyCleveland has over 2,607 followers and the Facebook page has over 2,677 likes. The Occupy Cleveland website features a Twitter role displaying people’s thoughts and ideas on various social issues. Many of the Tweets are urging others to join the Occupy Cleveland movement.

The page also features links to other “Occupy” protests happening throughout the county.

Occupy Cleveland began with a protest at Willard Park and then moved to Public Square were the “occupation” phase of the demonstration is taking place. Around 32 people are currently camping on the outer edge of Public Square.

The protestors have been given permission by the city to hold their demonstrations until Oct. 17. According to a statement on the Occupy Cleveland website, protesters plan on camping near Public Square “indefinitely.”

The Willard Park phase of the protest featured a heavy police presence. Throughout most of the demonstration, a law enforcement helicopter circled above. Federal law enforcement agents were also observing the event. No arrests were made.

Occupy Wall Street began in New York City on Sept. 17. It was organized by the Canadian based activist and media group Adbusters. The group is known for its criticism of global capitalism.

As Occupy Wall Street enters its fourth week, thousands of people are now “occupying” various locations throughout New York City’s financial district.