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Locals join in ‘Occupy’ movement

By Staff | Oct 14, 2011

Students march during an ‘Occupy D.C.’ march in Washington, D.C. As occupy protests spring up around the country, those local to the area have found ways to participate. (Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel)

As occupy protests spring up all over the country, those in the local area have found ways to participate.

Elizabeth Barker, a 21-year-old Shepherd University student who lives in Shepherdstown, has made plans to make a four-hour journey to New York City this weekend to check out the Occupy Wall Street protest for herself.

Barker, who became interested in the Occupy movement after hearing tales of the first demonstration from a friend in mid-September, said the upcoming protest will be her first foray into activism.

“I’m not a political person. With this I don’t feel afraid to share my opinions for the first time,” she said.

Barker said she identifies will the Occupy movement because it offers an alternative to standard political discourse.

“It’s really nice because it’s not about whether you’re a Republican or Democrat,” she said.

Though Barker expressed nervousness about the event, she said she’s excited to take part in something she views the first real movement for her generation.

“You can gripe all you want … instead of worrying about it or complaining about it, they’re perking themselves on Wall Street and they’re getting massive attention,” she said.

Thom Huenger, a resident of Frederick, Md., and a Shepherd University alumnus, said he found out about the New York City’s protest a week before they started and has followed the movement’s progress on the Internet before deciding to join in last weekend.

“I’ve been waiting for a protest to occur in our country for months now,” he said.

Huenger traveled along with four friends to the Occupy DC march on Saturday, Oct 8. Huenger estimated that the nearly two-hour long march through downtown Washington, D.C., picked up nearly 300 people before it reached its conclusion in front of the White House.

Though the movement has been questioned for a lack of apparent direction, Huenger said he was impressed with the level of organization at the D.C. event and said he plans to go to another protest in either D.C. or Baltimore for “global occupation” on Oct. 15.

Huenger said the Occupy protests reflect a growing dissatisfaction with what he called “an ass-backwards value system.”

Ultimately Huenger hopes the protests, which he said are “unfairly portrayed by media,” will promote a change in American philosophy.

“Something needs to change. Our values need to change,” he said.

Shepherdstown resident Lynn Yellot also discussed a need for a change in American values.

Yellot, who has been an activist for years, became involved in Occupy DC though her work with Oct2011.org, an organization dedicated to limiting corporate influence in elections, among other issues. Yellot, who has spent multiple days this past week aiding protesters in the Occupy DC movement, said she sees Occupy events as a meeting places for those frustrated about various issues associated with the commingling of corporate interest and government.

“Us regular people have lost control of our government,” she said.

Though the occupy protests have been criticized for having a muddled central purpose, Yellot said she thinks the lack an exclusive grievance is one of the movement’s strengths. According to Yellot, everyone is united in their frustration.

“Everyone is fed up,” she said.

Though it began as a grassroots demonstration on the streets of New York, the movement has been characterized by an increasing number of smaller scale protests across the county.

A group of Eastern Panhandle residents plan to hold their own protest, Saturday, Oct. 15 in Martinsburg.

Jacob Allen, a Martinsburg resident and one of organizers of the Martinsburg protest, said the rally is an opportunity for those who don’t live in a major city to express their contention with the status quo.

“I feel it’s very important that people stand up and have their voices heard,” he said.

Allen and his wife Bethy Miller were inspired to became involved Occupy Martinsburg after taking a trip to one of the New York protests on a whim.

“This is all very new to me,” Allen said.

Allen, like Yellot, sees the Occupy movement as a fight against corporate interests.

“It’s not a government for the people by the people. It’s a government for the dollar by the dollar,” Allen said.

Yellot said she plans to return to the Eastern Panhandle to participate in the rally in Martinsburg.

“Occupy Martinsburg is an opportunity for people with different points of view to come together to find a common ground,” she said.

The Occupy Martinsburg event will be held Saturday, Oct. 15 at noon in front of the public library in Martinsburg. A “general assembly” organizational meeting will take place today, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in the library plaza.