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Wall Street protests spread to Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 3, 2011, at 3:22 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, at 6:37 a.m.

Jarett Young works in a liquor store in Wichita where people tell him every day that they hate their jobs and they're always broke and they have too many bills to pay.

"People work 30, 40 years of their life and have nothing to show for it, and people wonder why we have people who drink and do drugs," Young said. "There's gotta be a change."

Young was among the "Occupy Wichita" demonstrators who gathered Monday in downtown Wichita as part of a fledgling movement hoping to inspire that change.

About 40 or so people held signs near the Market and Broadway intersections along Douglas Avenue to protest what they consider corporate greed and political corruption in America.

"We're here to spread as many messages of togetherness and prosperity as possible," said one demonstrator, Anthony Maskrid. "It's not about pointing the finger at anybody else. It's policy that's getting in the way, not people.

"There's no one particular issue that we're dealing with. We're trying to get together and let people know we're all here experiencing life together," he said. "If we wish to see change in the world, we have to be that change."

"Occupy Wichita" was formed to show solidarity with the Wall Street demonstrators in New York City. Protesters have been camping out in Manhattan's Financial District for more than two weeks.

The protest spread across the country Monday as demonstrators marched on Federal Reserve banks and camped out in parks from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine, in a show of anger over the wobbly economy and what they see as corporate greed.

Protests nationwide

In Manhattan, hundreds of protesters dressed as "corporate zombies" in white face paint lurched past the New York Stock Exchange clutching fistfuls of fake money. In Chicago, demonstrators pounded drums in the city's financial district. Others pitched tents or waved protest signs at passing cars in Boston, St. Louis and Kansas City.

The Occupy Wall Street protests started on Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp in a park nearby and have become increasingly organized, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

The first demonstration in Wichita was on Sunday and drew 100 to 300 people, demonstrators said.

About that '99 percent'

Members of the Wichita movement said their goal is to form daily peaceful gatherings of those who feel wronged by corporations and government policies that place profits over people.

They are establishing a staging area in the Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park just east of Douglas and Market, where the 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-in is commemorated by a bronze lunch counter sculpture. They plan to have food, live music, a library for resource materials, and art equipment to paint a mural.

"I would like to try to make it an occupation, a show of commitment," Young said.

Demonstrators held signs saying things such as, "Stop Corporate Greed, Government Corruption," "Stop Paying for Your Own Oppression," "Bail Out the People, Not the Banks," and "Bad Criminals go to Jail. The Best go to Washington, D.C."

Motorists glanced at the signs as they drove past, and some honked their support.

"We're sick of the government corruption from corporate bribes," said demonstrator Jennifer Kramer.

She said she wants the IRS to audit members of the U.S. Congress to find out who is funding them.

"They're not serving the people. They've pledged allegiance to the corporations and not the people," she said.

Many of the demonstrators were young, but they also included people like Don Landis, a Vietnam veteran and Tea Party supporter.

"I fought for the people," Landis said. "I didn't fight for the government to rip us off."

Landis and other demonstrators said their protests aren't about Right against Left or any other divisions in society and politics.

"It's about that 99 percent of us who can agree that corporate and political corruption are ruining the country," Landis said. "We've all been played by that same 1 percent."

"There's no reason for us to be out here telling any other people that they're wrong and we're right," Maskrid said. "We're here to stand in solidarity together."

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com. Contributing: Associated Press

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