Story by Miriam Raftery
Photos by Ron Logan
October 8, 2011 (San Diego) – “I went down there because I feel like America has changed in a bad way…It’s fallen apart and it seems like our Congress doesn’t care,” Dennis Richardson, a Lakeside businessman who participated in the Occupy San Diego march downtown last night, told ECM. He joined tens of thousands across the nation holding similar vigils to protest corporate bail-outs and benefits for the wealthy while ordinary Americans are hurting.
Crowd size estimates for the first night of the occupation ranged from 1,000 to several thousand people, with more and more joining in as word spreads about the encampment which is slated to continue indefinitely.
“It’s pretty obvious when I hear them talk that they are saying to the citizens they’re more interested in big corporations, in making sure that they protect the people that make a lot of money,” added Richardson, who said he is concerned about his children’s future as jobs and security for the middle class have diminished. “I’m talking about the people who make millions of dollars, the global corporations that are constantly outsourcing jobs overseas--not those of us who are small business owners, who employ people here in the United States.“
Bonnie Burns Price, PhD, of La Mesa, had this to say about the Occupy San Diego demonstration and the Occupy Wall Street demonstration that has inspired similar events. “They are expressions representing the 99% of us who are stuck with the bills of corporate bailouts and continuing tax loopholes that favor the 1% who care nothing about how we survive.”
Patrick Dean, a chef and father of young children in La Mesa, tweeted from the scene, “San Diego is makin’ me proud! This march is huge! I say 10,000 people. WE ARE THE 99%.”
“Thomas Jefferson predicted the future perfectly, unfortunately,” said Ray Lutz of El Cajon, founder of Citizens Oversight Committees and an organizer of the rally. Lutz posted this Jefferson quote on his Facebook page: “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations …will..deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”
Simon Mayeski of San Diego observed that America has reverted to the situation in 1776, when the British government partnered with corporations in monopolies and the American colonists revolted, calling it tyranny.
Marchers chanted “We got sold out, banks got bailed out,” during last night’s march, which received coverage in major media.
“It was awakening. It was thunderous,” Richardson concluded. “What was amazing to me, it was complete mix of everybody –young to old, healthy people to disabled people, military to every walk of life. I know that the 99% is made up of all of us—it includes every religion, every race, every political party.”
Richardson said a small band of counter-protesters from a Christian sect initially interrupted the rally calling participants “sinners.” In response, demonstrators sent a “negotiating team” to talk to each counter-protester one on one. “These are kids, college age or a little bit older, and they convinced these people to set down their flags and quit protesting –they’re one of us,” he said.
While a substantial police presence was evident, the march and occupation in San Diego has been peaceful thus far. The same has held true in most cities, where protesters insist they will camp out until changes are made to a situation in which 1% of Americans control 40% of the wealth, while many people are in need. Locally, poverty rates are now 30% in El Cajon and 17% countywide, with high jobless rates, foreclosures, impacts of budget cuts and a rising cost of living fostering a sense of desperation among more and more people.
Richardson wants to see people’s needs given at least equal weight to those of corporations—and to see corporations pay their fair share in taxes. He objects to companies such as Exxon Mobile and General Electric pocketing record profits while paying zero taxes.
“I went down there as a person who wanted to be counted,” the Lakeside resident concluded, summing up the feelings of many here.
View a video of the march through San Diego: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbNT3ZEuaxY
For more information, follow the Occupy San Diego movement at http://occupysd.org/ or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-San-Diego/198003106936678.