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Occupy Spokane reminds that disparity remains

Speakers raised familiar themes of the Occupy movement during an Occupy Spokane rally and march on Saturday, Sept. 15, marking the first anniversary of the Occupy movement.

Occupy Spokane 1st anniversary
Signs at the Occupy Spokane rally and march in September

Justin Ellenbecker, coordinator, is part of a coalition pulling together this event and others with Occupy Spokane, the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, Veterans for Peace, Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution, Progressive Democrats, Unite Women, Equality Spokane and others.

After three speakers spoke by the fountain at Riverfront Park, nearly 100 people marched to three banks and the office of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, with speakers at each location.

Wayne Spitzer of Occupy Spokane said, “You can’t kill an idea.  The Occupy movement has shown that another world is possible, even inevitable.  We need to continue to march together to show what community looks like and to show what America looks like.”

Bart Haggin, a political and environmental activist, expressed frustration that when wealth is power, “the game is rigged.”

Jerry Mueller Occupy
Jerry Mueller with sign at Occupy Spokane rally

He called for people to go to the streets to break through lies, fraud and stealing by those in the government, banks, corporations and Wall Street who “have lost their humanity.”

“Banks got bailed out.  We got sold out!” he repeated one of the Occupy Movement’s chants.

Bart considers the billions being spent on political campaigns to be bribery and considers it “un-American” for multi-national corporations to pay no taxes.  

“With one percent of the population owning 40 percent of the wealth, there is no free market,” Bart asserted.  “The workers are the job creators and the profit makers, but the more they produce the less they earn. The social contract has been thrown out.  Change starts in the streets.”

Liz Moore, executive director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, appreciated the energy and focus.  While many speakers tell what they are against, she challenged participants to articulate what they are fighting for, such as freedom, clean air, love and equality.

“We need to name and put our roots in what we want to work for.  We need to identify shared goals and build a sense of unity with people here and in other countries,” she said.

Liz was particularly mindful of the impact of wars in the past 11 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Occupy Spokane March 9.12
Occupy Spokane march to mark one year of the campaign

“We have spent more than $20 million an hour for wars for more than a decade,” she said, citing figures of the National Priorities Project.  “The share in the fifth legislative district in Eastern Washington would be enough to buy a year of groceries for one million people.  Meanwhile, some argue that there is not enough money for food stamps, education or the environment.”

In addition, she spoke about the human cost of the wars with more than 2,000 U.S. troops killed, more suicides than deaths in the field—the highest rate in military history—and half a million disability claims at the Veterans Administration. 

Liz said that millions of people outside the United States have been displaced, made homeless or become refugees.

Justin said that it has been hard to organize Occupy because any time the intentionally non-hierarchical movement organizes something—the kitchen downtown, the encampment at Franklin Park, a coffee house and a club house—it becomes hierarchical.

“Our goal is to be a coalition of different groups, operating like a rain cloud with millions of individual droplets—like the millions of people involved,” he said.  “The ‘droplets rain down’ in a program for tax reform.  Then they evaporate back into the cloud and next may join with groups working on education reform or fighting for access to health care.”

Justin said that way of operating is helpful in Spokane where there is not enough population to build leverage other than joining with other groups.

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