Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Spokane takes to the streets, goes to the bank

Posted on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 7:24 PM

The people thronged in front of River Park Square, massing in a line as if choreographed and chanting: “We are the 99 percent.” It became clear, then, that what started as an occupation of Wall Street in New York City had come to Main Street in Spokane.

Occupy Spokane is not a protest, some marchers say: it’s a movement. Friday’s movement, labeled the March for Peace Rally, started with speeches delivered by people standing on a table beneath the Monaghan statue at Monroe Street and Riverside Avenue.

“All for the Yankees stand up and holler,” declared Happy Watkins, a Spokane pastor renowned for his recitation of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On this occasion, he railed against the high incarceration rate for minorities.

Then a guy in blue jeans hopped up on the table.

“Hi, my name is Timm. I’m a politician,” Timm Ormsby, a Democratic state representative from Spokane, told the crowd. “I feel like I’m at the beginning of a 12-step program. We’re all about getting attention. You got my attention.”

His attention was directed to an audience of blue-jean-wearing, sign-waving people that considered themselves part of the “99 Percent.” The Occupy Movement, started by an ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City’s Financial District, has divided America into two parties: the 99 Percent, representing the masses, and the One Percent, representing unscrupulous bankers who many in the movement say have taken advantage of their fellow Americans. At its heart, it’s a protest about income inequality.

Friday’s signs reflected that: “Bankers winning, taxpayers losing,” read one. “Tax the rich,” read another, and a third read “I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

Some weren't into it.

“Honestly, I thought it was a bunch of homeless people,” says Ryan Rupe, a 27-year-old Spokane resident, who watched the protesters from Riverside Avenue while walking to start work as an electrician. He added that he sympathized with the protesters but wouldn’t be coming down to protest; he didn’t have time.

Those who were into it showed up en masse. Carroll McInroe, a member of anti-war group Veterans for Peace, who led the marchers from the intersection through downtown, says the group was 300-strong.

McInroe was busy throughout the march, seeking to avoid the ire of the police and motorists by keeping the marchers on the sidewalk and making sure no one jaywalked. The protesters were mostly compliant and peaceful during the two-hour affair.

Upon departing the median, groups of people snaked through downtown, followed by camera-bearing journalists and circling television trucks. The ultimate destination was the Chase Bank branch on Main Avenue, a relatively frequent target of protests.

The chanting echoed off the buildings as the protesters neared the bank: “Banks got bailed out, people got sold out!”

At the bank, they were met by a lone security guard who stood in the door as the marchers pointed their fingers at him and informed him in unison: “You are the 99 percent.”

Liz Moore, director of the Peace and Justice League of Spokane, took the megaphone and accused Chase of using tax loopholes to rob Washington state of revenue.

“Children lost funding for having class sizes reduced,” she says. The crowd replied: “Boo!”

Around the corner, a man withdrew money from the bank's ATM.

Eventually, a black-clad bank employee locked the branch’s automatic doors, and the protesters moved down the street to the other side of the building.

The march was halted. The people with signs stood in the middle of a brick-paved street, unclear as to what was going on, or why the march had decided to stop across from a coffee shop. Then another protester took the megaphone and explained.

“This is what it feels like to Occupy Wall Street,” and the crowd cheered, for they had indeed made it to Wall Street.

That is, Wall Street in Spokane.


For more photos from the Occupy Spokane protest, click here 

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