Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Nevada?

Carrying a sign that read, “We are the 99 percent,” Michael Gonzalez shouted to passing motorists, “Jobs on Main Street, not Wall Street.”

He was one of about 75 demonstrators in Carson City on Saturday who joined the global Occupy Wall Street movement, protesting corporate greed and a disenfranchised public.

“It's multifaceted,” he explained. “It's a lack of jobs. It's our economy. It's deficit trading with China. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is a people's issue.”

That was the scene in Carson City yesterday. Yes, believe it or not, #OccupyWallStreet has now reached Carson.

Of course, #OccupyLasVegas also continued to grab attention and spark intrigue. They hit Fremont Street yesterday.

Andrew Hamby is one of the many faces of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The 23-year-old Las Vegan went from having a job at Mandalay Bay, a home and a car, to living on the street.

“I became homeless in 2007 when I got laid off along with 2,700 other people,” Hamby said. “Lost my house, lost my car, moved in with my mom for a little while until she got kicked out of her home. Then I lived under a tunnel for a couple months. Now I’m staying with friends.”

So Hamby, along with men and women and children from all walks of life, took to the streets Saturday to protest corporate greed. The group joins the core Occupy Wall Street development that has sparked similar protests in many major U.S. cities for the past few weeks.

The hundreds of Fremont Street demonstrators shared similar stories. An elderly woman who is on the verge of losing her house, a disabled vet whose friends can’t find work, and a union steward who says she’s standing up for “the working man.”

“We’re all standing together now,” Hamby said. “It’s not every man for himself anymore, or at least that’s what I hope to try and make happen here.”

There was even a crowd of 250 in Reno yesterday.

The frustration of people such as Rodgers is exactly the driving force behind the Occupy Wall Street-type rallies now occurring nationwide, said Jared Lowell, a 26-year-old UNR student who helped organize the Occupy Reno movement. While a lot of people have lost their jobs and homes, big companies continue to get away with a lot of shady behavior while enriching their pockets, Lowell said.

“We’re upset with the extremely unjust distribution of wealth in this country,” Lowell said. “What we’re doing in Reno is not so different from what people are doing worldwide. We’re bringing people together to show that we’re united and not all that different from one another.”

At the same time, Lowell and his colleagues stressed that their movement is a non-violent cause that aims to raise awareness and educate people. Lowell pointed to several workshops they have planned on topics ranging from the global financial system to the importance of buying local. They also stressed that while they might talk about the problems with corporate influence on politics, their movement is apolitical and does not favor one party over another. Their focus is not about right or left, it’s about right or wrong, supporters said.

It's looking increasingly obvious that this budding movement isn't leaving center stage any time soon. So what can we expect in the days and weeks to come? Is this "The Tea Party of the Left" that some progressives have been longing for? Is this an effort to take down the American capitalist system as we know it? Will this root out the corporate money at the center of political corruption today? Or will this go in another direction?

We have yet to see. Republicans may be publicly changing their tune now after blaming protesters for their own economic woes, but their economic policies amount to the same old autotune of more pain and suffering for the 99%. Can the goals of the G-O-TEA be compatible with those of the Occupy/99% movement?

The Occupy/99% folks say they're nonpartisan now. Does this mean they are off limits to Democrats, too? Will these people even vote next year? Do they have any real political goals for the next year?

I guess we will find out as this goes on. We will have to see what kind of role Occupy/99% plays on the political stage. But without a doubt, they don't want to leave the stage any time soon. They will be a part of this play, and we will be seeing more of them here in our acts here in Nevada as campaign season rolls onward.

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