Occupy Fort Myers draws 150 to organize against wealthy Americans
By VICTORIA MACCHI
FORT MYERS – Amid a torrential downpour, a crowd of around 150 people gathered under a Centennial Park pavilion Saturday night to attend the first meeting of Occupy Fort Myers.
The goal established from the outset, advertised largely through social networking groups and word of mouth, was to organize a local offshoot of the national Occupy movement.
Slogans and chants about “the 99 percent” — a term at the root of the Occupy Wall Street movements used to distinguish the group’s dissociation with the country’s wealthiest individuals — were present Saturday night.
The evening was an open platform of mixed opinions and ideas, but the message attendees left with was two-fold: There is dissatisfaction with the government, and they want to take action.
“Is strictly being upset going to be enough? Probably not… but it will make people more aware,” said Drew Scott, 38, of Naples who emerged earlier in the week as one of the local movement’s organizers and spoke out Saturday night.
The Fort Myers group mirrors others forming around the country following a Occupy Wall Street protest, which began on September 17 with protestors camping out in New York City’s financial district, demanding financial, political, and social reforms like a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, free college education, open border immigration policies, and support for alternative energy.
From California to Maine, the movement’s unofficial website lists participants in 1,132 cities, including international sites.
“We’ve forgotten that this is a country run by the people… we’ve all forgotten we’re the bosses of the president, of Congress, of the judges,” said Michael Cooper, 34, of Cape Coral after the meeting.
Jeanie Williamson, 51, of Bonita Springs said she came to the event to take a stand against “corporate greed.”
“There is a difference between being comfortable and being greedy,” Williamson said.
Though participants were unsure how the group will evolve and what impact, if any, the Occupy movement will have on elections in 2012, the meeting was used to schedule its first demonstration for Oct. 15 in Fort Myers.
Occupy Fort Myers participants plan to march from Bank of America to the Federal Building and Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers beginning at noon Oct. 15, though permitting and logistics have not been finalized.
Occupy Fort Myers planning for local event
Occupy Wall Street is spreading like wildfire from coast to coast. It began as a grass roots movement in New York City three weeks ago. Now a gathering is planned in Fort Myers’ Centennial Park so organizers can plan an event.
Brandon Christmas says he’s just an every day guy who thinks the country is heading in the wrong direction.
“My story is really not much different than other people in town,” he said.
He and nearly 800 others in Southwest Florida are joining the Occupy Fort Myers movement through Facebook.
It’s even got the attention of those considering joining, like Jodi Hahn.
“Everyone’s talking about it, it just took one group of people in an area that gets a lot of media coverage to get the topic out there,” she said.
Protests started weeks ago in New York and spread around the country like wildfire.
Those involved have said they are fed up with their voices being ignored and they want changes to corporate greed, bank problems and government issues.
“Really, just with how much I’ve worked and how much I’ve studied in a broad range of subjects, I’ve just had enough of with the way the country’s going right now,” Christmas said.
So far, there have been no local protests. But Saturday night, local followers will meet at Centennial Park – not to rally – but instead to plan their big event. They say it will be peaceful and open-minded.
“I think it’s important for everyone to be concerned about social issues and there’s a big problem in our country,” said Hahn.
There is also an Occupy Naples and Occupy Lehigh Acres that have begun mobilizing.
The Occupy Fort Myers group will meet Saturday at Centennial Park at 7 p.m.
Again, it is not a protest – but a meeting. And anyone can attend.