Spreading like wildfire
Occupy Wall Street movement hopes to set up camp in Downtown Ventura this weekend
By Shane Cohn 10/13/2011
They are the flavor of the month. Rudderless. Unorganized. Dreamers. Without demands. Without anything better do.
But despite whatever tag detractors and main stream media come up with to deride the amplitude of Americans participating in the Occupy Wall Street movements in approximately 1,300 cities around the world, such labels aren’t strong enough to stick to the burgeoning groups.
Address them how you want. But they know who they are. They are the 99 percent. And the 99 percent who feel that they’ve footed the bail-out bill, which has resulted in unemployment, decreased wages and exploitation by the 1 percent who have benefited from the current financial system, will be occupying Ventura’s Mission Park on Saturday, Oct. 15.
“Our democracy will be uncorrupted by corporate influence,” said Jay Leiderman, attorney and professed 99er.
“Hopefully the politicians and the 1 percenters will take note that we’re here, we’re organized, we’re angry and we’ll be disenfranchised no longer.”
While those involved in Occupy Wall Street in New York have been camped in Zuccotti Park for nearly a month protesting unequal wealth distribution, the duration of the rally in the Downtown Ventura park will be determined as the event progresses.
“It is our intention to stay the night,” said Leiderman. “The question is how many nights to stay. And that is the dialogue we’ll have to have with the VPD [Ventura Police Department].”
Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney remained uncommitted to predicting what actions the police department would take without understanding what exactly the department would be dealing with.
“It all depends on how many people show up,” Corney said.
“We want to occupy like Occupy Wall Street and like the other Occupy movements have, but we also want to respect our community here and do this the right way,” said Leiderman. “The police and the city have been phenomenal in this. They get that they are not our enemy. They are united in this with us. They are a part of the 99 percenters.”
Like all the Occupy movements across the nation, Occupy Ventura also began with a general assembly meeting, which was held on Oct. 7. Close to 100 people, ranging from 12 to 94 years old, attended to establish organization and process.
“It was a very passionate, nonpartisan crowd speaking about why the United States is in trouble and what we can do,” said activist Suz Montgomery.
Occupy Ventura has since established committees for media, legal issues and logistics. A general assembly follow up meeting was held Wednesday night and a rally to kick off the event will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14 at the Ventura County Government Center at Victoria Avenue and Telephone Road in Ventura.
“Local people are itching to hammer in some tent stakes and get this thing going here,” said Phillip Wikel, a media liaison for the group. Wikel said that, for now, Occupy Ventura will remain in solidarity with the other Occupy events across the nation instead of honing in on local issues. The point is to show a people united in speaking out about the corporate and government corruption plaguing the country and its citizens, explained Wikel.
“In the long run, if we stay in solidarity with the other occupations, local stuff will get taken care of,” he said.
Ventura residents Teri Hitt and Brian Hardin have been participating in the Occupy Los Angeles movement, which has been active for two weeks, now with hundreds of campers. Hitt and Hardin have been filming the movement and spreading the message virally. While much of the criticism about the Occupy events has been directed at the lack of specific and official demands yet to be made by the movement, Hardin explained that such criticism is blind. The movement is more about educating, informing and invigorating the public rather than producing caustic demands.
“The consensus of the people is not to cause problems but create solutions,” explained Hardin. “Because Los Angeles is such a media-rich city, there are tons of video cameras and tons of opportunities to talk to the cameras and be heard on the internet. People are taking advantage of that. And that is the way to spread the message.”
“This is not a Democrat, Republican, union or a Tea Party thing,” said Hitt. “It’s a community thing for all people coming together and realizing that the system is flawed. The banking system, the war system, the consumer system is flawed and it’s unethical. Solutions need to be addressed.”
Though many in the movement, like Hitt, suggest it is not about the right or the left, since both sides of the political system have been captured by the financial industry, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney called the Occupy Wall Street movements “class warfare” and candidate Herman Cain called it “Un-American,” and said “if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”
Some observers have suggested the Occupy movement is the Tea Party of the left.
“The Tea Party and the 99 percent are very interesting because to some extent they’re kind of mirror inverted images of one another,” said Dr. Herb Gooch, chairman of the political science department at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. “One tends to be more of a Southern phenomenon, conservative, Republican, older and better off.
The other tends to be more Northern, left, Democrat and younger.”
Regardless of how it’s perceived, the Occupy Wall Street movement is gaining steam, rising up in cities throughout the nation, and as it enters Ventura County, it is showing no signs of slowing down.
“We’re going to get much more of this before we see less,” said Gooch. “It’s pretty desperate times out there for lots of people. Once you realize others are as angry as you are, all of a sudden people see they’re not alone. God only knows there is a lot of desperation out there.”