What local protestors are calling for, and the issues they face - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

What local protestors are calling for, and the issues they face

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Travis Roemhild is a reporter at the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach him at (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:18 am | Updated: 1:20 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

There is no question that the "Occupy" movement is growing. The fight against big business and governments worldwide gains more attention by the day and citizens are protesting in cities across the world under the slogan, "We are the 99 percent."

If you aren't up to date on what that figure represents, it alludes to a unproportional distribution of wealth - the top 1 percent of the richest Americans earned 23 percent of the nation's income in 2007, according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.

There is unity at the different Occupy protests regarding what they see as the problem in this country and around the world, but the issue is how do we go about fixing what ails us, one local protestor said.

"We don't agree on the solutions, but we agree on the problems," Phoenix resident Tara Marshall said. "We're a diverse group. So the ways to solve it are equally diverse."

When I visited Occupy Phoenix this weekend, I saw a group of 20 or so people communicating their issues with our economy, governmental policy toward big business and whether or not we will see a change because of these protests. These were people who came to unite under a common idea - it is indeed time for a change in economic policy.

"It's empowering to come together as a spontaneous community and say, ‘No, it's not OK,'" Nicole Johnson said. "Nobody knows the solution and that's OK. We are creating a space to communicate about the issues."

I learned that Occupy Phoenix, which is downtown, right outside City Hall, has not had incidents involving police and pepper spray to the extent that the movements in Davis, Calif., or New York City, but there have been arrests, according to several protestors. One claimed that on the first day of the movement, Oct. 15, 46 people were arrested. Last Thursday, four more people were arrested under the "Urban Camping" law, which keeps people from sleeping on any land owned by the city of Phoenix. The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately respond to a request to confirm these numbers.

As of this writing, it has been 57 days since the Occupy Phoenix started and while there are unemployed people that can stay day in and day out, many of the protestors are working residents. Marshall summed up her feeling toward the prejudice that can and has occurred against the protestors: "Contrary to popular belief, most of us are employed," she said. "I work three jobs so most of my time here comes on the weekends."

Exercising constitution rights isn't always pretty. As we have seen from some of the other protests around the country, it can literally turn downright disgusting. I remember a picture from Occupy Los Angeles of when the protestors "left" and it wasn't what you want to see - trash, trash and more trash.

I don't know what the solution is to the Occupy movement, but just because there isn't one yet doesn't mean what they are doing isn't meaningful. As it turns out millions of Americans have issues with Wall Street and our government, and they are voicing their opinions in the form of (mostly) nonviolent protests - there is always a bad seed in the bunch.

Before you make a judgement on these protestors being lazy, unemployed people without a common goal, take a second to go online and read about the different movements and what they stand for. Your opinion might not change, but it's worth a few minutes of your time.

Visit www.OccupyPhx.org to find out more about the local protest, or www.OccupyTogether.org for more general information.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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