News Report, Kia Croom
The Occupy Movement has officially spread to Richmond. Approximately 90 Occupy Richmond demonstrators assembled on the steps of the Richmond Civic Auditorium for the first ever Occupy Richmond Public speak-out. More than 20 demonstrators signed up to share testimonies concerning their struggles with foreclosure, unemployment and their disdain for environmental degradation. The speak-out was held on November 11— the Veteran’s Day Holiday.
When compared to the hundreds of Occupy Oakland demonstrators, it’s clear Occupy Richmond has a much smaller following. The question of the day is what is the reasoning behind Occupy Richmond’s sparse attendance? Some attribute it to the rainy weather the day brought. Others believe some community members sat out in observance of the Veteran’s Day holiday. However, according to Eduardo Martinez, an Occupy Richmond organizer, it’s simply a lack of community awareness about Occupy Richmond.
“Occupy Richmond is new. A lot of people don’t know about Occupy Richmond,” said Martinez. “The more people become aware of Occupy Richmond, the more supporters it will get,” he said.
Over the last few months, millions have watched Occupy protesters around the world practice civil disobedience, while demanding economic equality for the 99%. Occupy protestors have established tent villages on park grounds, college campuses and city halls. They have also organized a number of rallies and strikes.
When asked what civil disobedience tactics Occupy Richmond demonstrators will likely employ during upcoming protests Martinez replied, “We don’t want to tell people what to do. We want people to do what is in their best interest. What we do want is for people to share their stories, so everyone knows we are in this together,” he said.
Martinez said Occupy Richmond plans to demonstrate peacefully and does not condone violence on part of demonstrators or law enforcement agents.
Despite its smaller inaugural following, its clear Occupy Richmond has a big voice and big plans to make its voice heard. Standing in solidarity with other Occupy groups throughout the Bay Area and throughout the county, Occupy Richmond is committed to decrying economic inequality, championing bank reform and reducing corporate influence on politics for the long haul.
“This movement is about every single person’s issue in this country that has not been addressed by the agencies of government etc, said Phoebe, an Occupy Richmond demonstrator.
“[We] the 99% can change everything, but it has to build momentum and build numbers before we can make demands, the numbers are there in many cities, not here yet , but people have to invite their neighbors and friends and tell them ‘do this with me this is important, it is about everybody,” she said.
City of Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is both a supporter and Occupy Richmond demonstrator.
“We [Occupy Richmond] don’t think the concentration of wealth among the 1% is something our country should keep supporting. The people of Richmond certainly need services, jobs, their homes and that necessitates that big corporations and big banks start paying their fair share of taxes and that the interest of the people become the priority rather than the interests of corporations and banks.
Occupy Richmond organizers anticipate its following growing exponentially over the next few months and even gaining more participation from youth.
“We hope the youth of Richmond will step up and make their presence felt. Youth are a part of the 99% regarding wealth, job opportunities and sustainable income,” Martinez said.
“They have a right to start demanding what is rightfully theirs,” he said.
Martinez said he and other Occupy Richmond organizers are open to using social media and other strategies to bolster youth participation in the Occupy movement.
A group of concerned community members and agencies including the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Black Alliance for Economic Justice (BAJI) and Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) organized Occupy Richmond. The Occupy Richmond movement officially started on October 13, 2011 when protestors marched from 11th Street [in Richmond] to a rally at the Richmond Civic Center Plaza. On November 2, members of Occupy Richmond marched from the intersection of MacDonald Ave. and San Pablo Ave in Richmond to 14thand Broadway St. in Oakland where they united with Occupy Oakland during the general strike.