Downtown Ithaca witnessed a little slice of revolution this week as the Occupy Wall Street protest movement took form in cities nationwide.
About one dozen people protested in front of Bank of America during Apple Fest, and Wednesday, about 250 protesters formed across from Starbucks in a rally co-sponsored by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, the Finger Lakes Move On Council and Occupy Ithaca.
Many protesters said they are seeking out economic reform, and some see the movement as a conglomeration of protests on many issues — an uprising of angry constituents who want their voices heard over the desires of corporations.
The Occupy Wall Street movement started as a small call to protest by Canadian anti-commercial group Adbusters. Beginning in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 17, the movement has since grown to include more than 15,000 protestors across New York City and thousands more nationwide, according to The Guardian.
Pam Gueldner, organizer for the Finger Lakes Move On Council, said economic disparities between the rich and poor are the impetus for the movement.
“The millionaires and billionaires continue to see their wealth increase while the other 99 percent of us have experienced unemployment, budget cuts and home foreclosures,” Gueldner said. “They were wrong when they told us their banks were too big to fail.”
Protesters chanted through a loudspeaker throughout the evening, yelling calls such as, “The people united will never be defeated,” and “Working people are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back.”
Svante Myrick, the Democratic mayoral candidate for the City of Ithaca, cheered on the protesters, saying it’s an essential part of a democracy.
“I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing,” Myrick said. “So many people recognize the fact that the way our country is run is not working, and if they want to see change, it can only come from them.”
Local activist Fil Eden said there are parallels between the recent Arab Spring protests in the Middle East and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“The people of Tunisia were leaderless and directionless when they started, and they launched a worldwide movement in protest for democracy and human rights,” he said. “We want a government that supports us, that supports the 99 percent, and we need to take our faith back and put it in ourselves because we are the only ones who will make this happen.”
The movement on Wall Street is progressing through its third week, and the nationwide protests continue to garner support. The protesters gathered at the Commons were cheered by bikers and honking cars. Demonstrations in Ithaca were nonviolent, and, though some police officers were present, they mostly stood behind the activists and even initiated conversation with some.
Amanda Moretti, one of the protestors Sunday, said protesting is important because it spreads the voice of the people.
“The point of protesting is to get people to discuss,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of people talking and thinking.”
Another demonstration is already in the works for this coming Saturday in front of Bank of America, according to the Occupy Ithaca Facebook page. Also this Saturday, a group of nearly two-dozen Ithaca College students are preparing to travel to Wall Street.
Ithaca resident Jaimi Hendrix said she sees the protests as fulfillment of the country’s national, patriotic destiny.
“One of the founding fathers says the tree of the world needs fresh nutrients like the blood of the compatriots who died,” Hendrix said. “So now it’s happening, hopefully.”