Occupy Movement Comes to PA
By Greta Fenzl and Keegan Gibson
Occupy Wall Street? More like Occupy Broad Street.
The events are designed to be in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, where protesters are rallying against social and economic inequality and corporate influence on the government. Almost 1,000 protesters were arrested over the weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge, and as their actions gain publicity, the movement is spreading fast.
Harrisburg organizer Rick Smith, radio host of central PA’s “The Rick Smith Show: Where Working People Come to Talk,” has joined the effort in Philly and is helping to start one in Harrisburg. He explained the cause as a response of marginalized people who have been repeatedly pushed into the shadows.
“The Occupy movement is an opportunity for the disenfranchised and marginalized to finally be heard. It is a chance to have a conversation on how we create a society, and an economy that works for everyone from janitor to CEO and holds those accountable who created the mess we have been in for the past 3 years.”
And according to Smith’s coworker Brett Banditelli, protesters are fired up about this cause.
“Although everyone may see how the top 1 percent has hurt them differently, they all realize that the ‘haves’ are attempting to take from the ‘have-nots’, and we’re not going to sit by the sidelines.”
Several unions and other groups have recently endorsed the movement.
Protesters’ demands range from mainstream liberal (spend more on infrastructure, go green, and create a more progressive tax structure) to fringe (eliminate border controls, ban credit ratings agencies, and wipe out all debt worldwide).
But the movement could be an important spark heading into the 2012 elections. Democrats have sought an answer to the grassroots enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement. Aside from a brief string of union-organized protests which centered on Wisconsin this spring, the energy has been lacking. The rise of a vocal, liberal movement could help to shift leftward the nation’s Overton window – the range of public policy options that are considered acceptable.
“It’s the left’s answer to the tea party, ” said Elijah Lopinto of Allentown. “It has a message that resonates with everyone.”
The Occupy Philadelphia protests started at 9am today outside City Hall, and protesters in Reading plan to meet at the Penn St. bridge tomorrow. The Harrisburg rally is planned for 4pm on Sunday. A small Allentown rally occurred on Monday.