Santa Barbara community members “Occupied” De la Guerra Plaza Monday afternoon as part of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests against corporate greed.
The rally is one of many grassroots movements taking off throughout the nation since the demonstrations in New York’s financial district on Sept. 17. Demonstrators gathered shortly after noon Monday to discuss solutions for social and economic concerns and will continue to hold a “General Assembly” at 5 p.m. every day for people to discuss their demands and proposals.
According to SBCC third-year physics major Liliana Caughman, students are particularly susceptible to the various issues involved with the movement.
“I think that students are some of the biggest victims of this corporate greed,” Caughman said. “The main reason that I really wanted to be here is, as my sign said, ‘apathy is slavery.’ We need to open our eyes, pay less attention to MTV and more to Al Jazeera.”
The local movement is modeled after the national protest in New York and does not have a designated leader or organizer.
Caughman said the structure encourages collaboration between its participants.
“The main thing here is getting more people who feel the same way to come forward,” Caughman said. “I really just would like it if more people in the college age group would get involved.”
According to fellow protestor Brooke Robbins, the movement arose in response to the nation’s recent economic hardships including foreclosures, unemployment, bank bailouts and corporate corruption.
“The list goes on and on, but none of these people have been held accountable,” Robbins said. “Society is failing us right now, there are a lot of people suffering and they didn’t do anything wrong.”
Robbins said the local demonstration addresses particular issues to the region not directly recognized at the national level.
“What’s happening on Wall Street is affecting us locally; it is not just in New York.”
Protesters at the De La Guerra Plaza listened to testaments later in the afternoon from students and lifelong activists urging reform. The crowd then marched down lower State Street chanting the slogan “We are the 99 percent” — a phrase that has become the unofficial symbol of the movement — as well as “banks got bailed out, people got sold out” and “foreclose Wall Street.”
The national demonstration spread in part through the use of the internet and social networking sites. Occupysb.org created a Facebook page for yesterday’s gathering and is hosting a livestream of future events when possible.
Justin Kennedy, community activist and one of the creators of the “Occupy SB” Facebook event page, said the movement’s online momentum caught his attention.
“I was turned on to Occupy Wall Street on the internet and the message just resonated with me,” Kennedy said.
According to Kennedy, one of the movement’s primary aims is to halt corporation’s practice of applying rights and benefits intended to serve individuals to corporations and corporate law.
“We want our democracy back,” Kennedy said. “We want a government for the people by the people, not for the corporations by the corporations.”
Over 50 protestors arrived for yesterday’s event. The protests in L.A. began with roughly 40 people and have spread to over 3000 participants at times, according to Kennedy.
Kennedy said Occupy SB is a long-term campaign with no definite timeline.
“This is an occupation,” Kennedy said. “We’re not going anywhere, and it is still growing. It is a damn good start for our city.”
Demonstrators continued the rally with a second overnight occupation of the plaza. Although police warned protestors they would arrest anyone trespassing on the city property after 10 p.m, as of press time no arrests had been made.