• Occupy Wall Street comes to Alvarado St. and So. Main St.

    By Cameron Douglas

    Hundreds of citizens in the Monterey-Salinas area took part in Occupy Wall Street rallies on Sat., Oct. 15. Demonstrations were held in many parts of the world that day, more than 1,500 protests in 82 countries, according to the website, occupywallst.org/. The Oct. 15 event served as an opportunity for others to stand in solidarity with those in New York, who have protested for four weeks straight.

    At 10 a.m. in Salinas, a small group of 30 or so set up in front of the Bank of America branch at 405 South Main. A bank manager and a security guard promptly came out and talked with organizer Dan Eyde, explaining that only the outer part of the sidewalk was public property and for the protestors to stay off the part leading to the entrance and clear of the driveway. The bank manager’s wishes were respected and the protest continued without incident.

    “Bank of America is responsible for 15 percent of the foreclosures in Salinas,” said Eyde. “That’s about 750 homes.” He added that the foreclosures are a result “of their [Bank of America’s] predatory lending practices.”Eyde offered a statement of intent to the manager, who refused it. The document directly addressed Bank of America employees: “Please know that we (the 99 percent) take no issue with you as workers. Given Bank of America’s stated intention to eliminate 30,000 of your co-workers’ jobs, we fully understand the uncertainty you may feel about your own employment prospects…we are all the 99 percent.”

    By 11 o’clock, more than 50 protestors lined the sidewalk in front of the bank with colorful signs and musicians playing. Passing drivers honked their horns as the protestors called out chants.

    Michael Fredricksen, a college student, described how his father lost his house in foreclosure. “Bank of America took my Dad’s home,” Fredricksen said. “He just had to give it up. Now it’s just sitting there empty. Dad’s always owned his own house. Now he has to look for places to rent.” Fredricksen, who is working his way through school, said that because of the foreclosure and losses from the economic downturn his father could no longer assist with college costs.

    When asked later about the protest and why security guards were on duty, Bank of America spokesperson Colleen Hagerty said, “Bank of America has no comment on the Occupy Wall Street protests. Our focus is on ensuring a safe environment for our customers to conduct financial transactions.”

    Some protestors were skittish about talking to the press, saying they were still looking for work and feared reprisal or refusal of employment. Others told their stories but asked their last names be withheld. Christopher, 28, said he was unemployed for eight months after his broadcasting job ended. He’s done some freelancing, and currently works in a pool hall.

    A woman named Gwen said she worked 45 years and retired at age 62 with “barely enough to live on.” She credits CHISPA [Community Housing Improvement Systems and Planning Association] for their assistance in finding a place to live.

    Another woman, 53 years of age, asked not to be identified at all. “I have a degree in electronics,” she said. Unable to find work in that field, she’s taken lower paying jobs just to keep busy, noting that the work she’s doing now actually pays less than unemployment. “Employers are taking advantage,” she said.

    Another man, Ed, is retired from the IT industry. He joined the protest on behalf of those less fortunate.

    Following the morning rally at the bank, the protestors moved to South Main and Blanco before heading to Monterey.

    Peninsula gathering

    At 4 p.m. on the stately grounds of Colton Hall, the focus shifted inward as more than 300 people gathered for a General Assembly meeting. Led chiefly by students from area colleges, the group tabled ideas on how to proceed. Using no loudspeaker, sentences were repeated one at a time by people near the front to aid in hearing for those farther back.

    The objectives of OWS center on the election process, money that goes into elections, and the concept of “corporate personhood.” Nine demands of Occupy Wall Street were read aloud:

    Push HR 1489, a bill to prevent investment bankers as serving as officers of commercial banks.

    Use Congressional authority to fully investigate Wall Street criminals.

    Have Congress reverse a Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions.

    Pass the Buffett Rule on taxes.

    Have Congress completely revamp the Securities Exchange Commission.

    Have Congress pass laws limiting the influence of lobbyists.

    Eliminate “revolving door” policies that allow public servants to gain employment in companies they once regulated.

    Eliminate “personhood” for corporations.

    Ensure equal airtime for all political candidates.

    Several members of the group pointed to OWS events in other cities, such as Seattle and Austin, prior to Oct. 15. Several people asked about the possibility of setting up an encampment in Monterey. For that, the group agreed on the need to set up services such as communication, food and sanitation. Most agreed that a festive atmosphere makes for good progress.

    There was talk of occupying empty foreclosure homes and setting them up as bases of operation. “The banks don’t own those houses, they stole them,” one man said.

    Before the group marched, several members of the group suggested going in the street and impeding vehicle traffic as a means to gain attention. Impeding traffic is a misdemeanor that can result in arrest. Others objected to calling it a march and insisted on something else. After some discussion, the group decided to stay within the law—at least for the time being—and take a “revolutionary stroll” to Fisherman’s Wharf. “Breaking the law is a serious matter and should be carefully thought out,” one man said.

    Chanting loudly, “We are the 99 percent!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” the group left Colton, keeping to the sidewalk and obeying all traffic signals. At Portola Plaza, the 300 moved though in a narrow line that did not impede foot traffic, with guidance from representatives of Unite Here Local 483, a labor organization that helped with the successful worker protest at Asilomar last year. The group crossed the plaza at Heritage Harbor and streamed into the Wharf, turned around and returned to Colton Hall, lining Pacific Street as passing motorists cheered and honked.

    In the course of the rally, someone suggested a place like Monterey might be too small to make a difference. Another countered, “You’re never too small to take a stand.”

    The OWS movement describes itself as “a protest against bank bailouts, corporate greed, and the unchecked power of Wall Street in Washington,” according to the site, targeting the one percent of the population that controls the world’s wealth. OWS started on Sept. 17 when 2,000 protestors gathered in Manhattan’s financial center and marched up Broadway to Zuccotti Park, where about 150 committed to staying the night and made an encampment. Since then, the movement there has swelled to tens of thousands, who converged on Times Square last Saturday.

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 18, 2011

    Topics: Breaking News, Current Edition, Front PG News

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