Occupy Indianapolis (Slideshow)
An estimated 1,200 people participated in Saturday's Occupy Indianapolis rally. People of all ages seemed to be equally represented.
Three weeks ago, a small group of young people set up camp in New York's Zuccotti Park to protest against the financial market's role in the collapse of the American economy, and to voice their united feeling that economic decisions no longer favor the average individual. They christened themselves "Occupy Wall Street."
Recent reports place their active demonstrators at well over 10,000 people. Both in support of, and as an extension of the Wall Street protests, satellite groups have sprung up in cities and small towns across the country, including Indianapolis.
Driven almost entirely by Facebook, Twitter and various other Internet live feeds, a larger-than-expected crowd estimated at about 1,200 gathered downtown to speak, march and support Occupy Indianapolis.
A small group of protestors vowed to continue making a stand downtown for as long as the movement on Wall Street persists. Meanwhile several other Occupy groups are springing up around Indiana, including efforts in Fort Wayne, Bloomington, Lafayette,Evansville, Kokomo, Columbus, South Bend, Muncie, Huntington, Marion, and a group called Occupy Small Town Indiana.
For the first hour of the Saturday afternoon protest, those in attendance sat on the Veterans Memorial Plaza lawn or stood and listened to volunteers who signed up to speak. Anyone was allowed to offer their voice but within an enforced two-minute period.
Protestors cited several related reasons for their civil action, including corporate greed, a growing disparity between the richest and poorest, lack of employment and a general frustration that economic policy has been rigged to benefit only the very wealthy.
When asked about charges that the movement had no clear focus, local organizer Joh Padgett was quick to respond.
"Bullshit," he said. "That's just the media's way of trying to pigeonhole us. We've got plenty to say. The problem is: How do you convey the voices and frustrations of thousands of different people? How do you do that? You can't fit it into a normal media narrative, so they make stuff up as they go along. They're doing the exact same thing that we are. They're making it up as they go along. Nobody has ever done this before."
Some media sources have been quick to tag the movement as a left-wing alternative to the Tea Party. Josh Howe, an Indianapolis-based music producer who attended the event, does not deny the comparison.
"The Tea Party is all about reducing the size of government," he said. "But who do you think runs the government? The politicians? Big banks and finance own everyone of them. That's who the government works for. Do you think government is going to propose any policy that would help me before it helps them?"
Insiders referred to Saturday's rally as a Meeting of the General Assembly, a set of procedures that national Occupy groups have adopted as a way to conduct their business. As stated in the Occupy Together brochure, it is "a gathering of people committed to making decisions based upon a collective agreement or consensus."
There is no single leader or governing body — everyone's voice is equal. Any individual is free to speak, offer a proposal and have that proposal voted on through a series of hand signals. In order to pass, a proposal needs to have a 91 percent consensus. Future demonstrations, or "Meetings of the Indiana General Assembly" are currently being planned. To hold one, it must be proposed and voted on, as well.
An AIDS walk scheduled at the same time as the demonstration was expected to supply further supporters once the AIDS event ended. At one time, the AIDS group and Occupy Indiana were actually marching across from each other on opposite sides of North Meridian Street heading in opposite directions.
A spirited group, almost three blocks long, left the Veterans Memorial Plaza and marched to Monument Circle shouting rally cries: "We are the 99 percent!" The chant contrasts the majority of Americans against the 1 percent who own and control the majority of the nation's capital and, by extension, power. After two laps around the circle, a large portion of the crowd marched on to the Capitol Building while others returned to the Veterans Memorial or simply left.
Some are hailing the Occupy movement as the next revolution. Filmmaker Michael Moore, for instance, predicted that events of the last three weeks are only the tip of the iceberg.
Detractors, on the other hand, are unconvinced the movement amounts to anything, viewing the activities as the antics of a bunch of misguided college kids with too much time on their hands.
While Saturday's rally had plenty of college age people in attendance, people of all ages seemed to have been equally represented.
The Indianapolis rally confirms that the New York protest resonates with people across the country. It remains to be seen whether the substantial legs the movement has gained so far are capable of sustaining the momentum necessary to influence any real change.
Nationwide, combined Occupy Facebook sites list over 450,000 members. The Occupy Indiana site currently ranks 19th in size with over 6,000 members. It is showing consistent growth, with several hundred new members joining daily.