About 150 protesters marched through downtown Wichita on Saturday afternoon as activists from across the country gathered for the weekend “Occupy Koch Town” rally.
Although the block-long line of protesters temporarily blocked several major intersections, the march was peaceful, and police made no arrests and issued no citations.
The rally, which was organized by the Sierra Clubs of Kansas and Missouri and area Occupy movements, began about 2 p.m. at the Grand Chapel, 828 N. Broadway. Throughout the day, speakers addressed a variety of issues dealing with energy, environmental, climate policies and the controversial Keystone pipeline.
Among those attending was Nick Brothers of St. Joseph, Mo., who said he had attended several other Occupy rallies, all of them peaceful.
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“It’s well known that Koch brothers are deeply imbedded in right-wing politics, and that’s their right,” he said, “But they’re using their money to destroy the environment.”
Koch has countered that it works closely with the EPA and has received hundreds of awards from the agency. Koch also has said it has no ties to the Keystone pipeline, which if completed would send oil from Canada to refineries in Texas.
Mike Shatz of Wichita carried a megaphone and led the Occupy Koch Town march, which was scheduled to move into downtown and pass in front of Century II. Among the props carried by marchers was a gray cardboard oil derrick and a black cardboard pipeline.
Mike Glazer of Wichita looked like he was covered in black oil, but he said it was actually chocolate syrup.
“If we could get the largest signs to come to the front,” Shatz announced as the group began its march. “That derrick should be up front for photographic purposes. Let’s put the pipeline in the middle.”
After walking south on Broadway, the group went west on Second and stopped at the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank.
The crowd chanted in front of the empty building as a police car monitored the activity from a block away.
“What do we want?” asked a man standing atop a stone sign next to the building.
“Justice,” the crowd shouted back.
“When do we want it?”
Among the marchers was Doris Ravenfeather, a retired nurse from Wichita, who said her concerns about the environment prompted her to join the protest.
“My major thing is protecting nature,” she said as she walked toward Century II. “We’ve got to save our land. I’m tired of seeing it abused.”
Brothers, the St. Joseph resident who is studying political science at Missouri Western State University, said the reaction from most passersby was positive, but he said there were occasional sneers and shouts of “Get a job.”
“It’s been mostly honks of solidarity and thumbs up,” he said.