Lone Tree Way on Saturday played host to an Occupy rally, as roughly 50 protesters stood up and spoke out against the income gap, joblessness and the war. People held up signs, participated in cheers and even shared cookies at the event held in front of Deer Valley High School.
Organizer Harry Thurston said he simply got tired of hearing about stories dealing with income inequality on the news and decided to do something. He took a liking to the Occupy movement, which he feels is a way for everyday people to become more involved with their government.
The Occupy rallies started on Sept. 17, when roughly 1,000 activists flocked to Wall Street, preparing to camp out and protest the statistic that claims the richest 1 percent of America’s population controls a lion’s share of the country’s wealth. Protesters have banded around the phrase “We are the 99 percent.”
“Though we don’t have the money in this country, we have the people and collectively, we have power,” Thurston said. “The energy is out there. It’s all around us. It just needed a place to come together, and that’s what I want to do.”
Thurston noted that he and other organizers, motivated by the success of Saturday’s event, plan to continue protesting in East County. They’ll try to hold small rallies every weekend and one big one every month, but details and logistics are still being worked out.
Throughout September and October, thousands of disgruntled Americans have joined the Occupy effort, which has spread to Washington D.C., Denver, Miami, San Diego and hundreds of other cities throughout the nation. The Occupy rallies have now developed an international dimension through events in Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Berlin and Moscow.
But now locales that won’t be found on many maps are getting into the act. Places such as Lenox, Mass. (population 5,077) have contributed to the Occupy effort.
“People have to get out there and have a voice,” community activist Sayra Flores of Brentwood said. “Our congressmen aren’t doing it for us.”
According to Chris Flores, an East County representative of political advocacy group MoveOn.org, when suburbs and small towns get involved like this, the true nature of the Occupy movement shines through. He was pleased with the turnout of the Antioch event. “It really gives me a sense of faith in our democracy and hope for our future,” he said. “Seeing people like this here in Antioch and around the nation coming out and speaking their voice and peacefully assembling, that’s a beautiful thing.”
While the income gap is the overarching theme of the Occupy rallies, demonstrators have also used these opportunities to speak out about the lack of jobs and the ongoing war. Placards at the Antioch rally reflected a variety of interests and concerns, from the American dream to ending the war, plus fair taxation on the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.
George Sasaki and Virginia Maruyama held cardboard signs reading “We Bleed to Feed Wall St. Greed.” Maruyama also brought her dog, Bingji, which wore a sign inscribed with “I don’t want to be homeless & hungry!”
The protesters were fairly well received by passersby, many of whom honked in support from both directions of the major Antioch thoroughfare.
“The state of this country motivated me to get involved,” said protester Maria Gauthier of Oakley. “Change begins with me. I’ve got to get off the couch and do something about it.”