Protest movement’s frustrations clear, goals less clear
By John Lyon
Little Rock – The Occupy Wall Street protest movement has reached Arkansas, but here as in New York the goals of the protesters are hard to pin down.
Various protesters have described things they would like to see happen, but according to the website occupywallstreet.org, “There is NO official list of demands.”
Taylor Tisdale, who is helping to organize a planned Occupy Little Rock protest for Saturday, said the protesters want to see change.
“We’re really not sure what change we’re expecting to see,” she said today. “We’re standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in New York. We’re just standing behind them with all they’re doing, and we’re just waiting to see what happens.”
Protesters plan to gather at the amphitheater in Little Rock’s Riverfront Park at 9 a.m. Saturday for a march to the state Capitol, with stops along the way at Stephens Inc., one of the largest investment banking firms off Wall Street, at the Federal Reserve Bank and at Bank of America. About 150 people attended a meeting to plan the event Monday night, and another meeting is planned for 6 p.m. tonight at the amphitheater.
Tisdale said that like Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Little Rock is about protesting greed in the corporate and banking world. The protesters say wealth and power are inordinately concentrated among the richest 1 percent of Americans.
“We’re the 99 percent, and we have to have a protest to make anyone listen. I don’t think it should be that way,” Tisdale said.
Protesters have been camped out in New York for nearly four weeks, and protests have been going on for days in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Tisdale said Occupy Little Rock intends for Saturday’s event to be the start of a similarly open-ended protest, though by this afternoon the group had not settled on a location to occupy.
“As long as we have somewhere to stay legally, this will continue until changes are made,” she said.
If the desired changes are unknown, how will protesters know when to go home?
“We’ll let you know when we know,” Tisdale said.
The protest in Little Rock is one of many similar events planned for Saturday across the state and the nation. According to the Facebook page of Occupy Arkansas, protests are planned in Conway, Fayetteville and Jonesboro.
“On this day we will, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, march on these cities simultaneously and we will occupy these cities for an undetermined amount of time,” Occupy Arkansas said in a post that was on its Facebook page today.
Gov. Mike Beebe said today that public protests are “part of democracy.”
“There’s a lot of frustration out there, and that frustration is manifesting itself in people actually banding together and making their voices known,” he said.
Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, said her students on the Fayetteville campus are talking about the movement. She said some are dismissive of it and see it as not particularly productive, but for others “it seems to give them some kind of purposeful expression of the frustration they see with what’s ahead of them.”
Parry said one student told her that this generation of young people has been characterized as materialistic and self-absorbed, “and this kind of provides them an avenue for breaking free from that.”
Whether the movement can shake up the economic establishment remains to be seen, Parry said.
“I think it depends on what happens with the economy and, as is always the case, whether or not a few charismatic organizers can coax it into more of a defined direction,” she said. “If that happens, then it becomes something. If it doesn’t, then it’s just another flash in the pan.”
Occupy Little Rock organizing
by Max Brantley
An organizer for Occupy Little Rock, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street effort, says the group will hold an organizational meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, at the River Market amphitheater.
source: Occupy Little Rock organizing